Returning to their roots: graduates who came back as teachers

Chemistry teacher Steve Lantos playing the standup bass as a high school student. Lantos graduated BHS in 1980 and returned as a staff member in 1985.


Chemistry teacher Steve Lantos playing the standup bass as a high school student. Lantos graduated BHS in 1980 and returned as a staff member in 1985.

The teachers at Brookline High School went to high school all over the country, but there is a significant group who call BHS their alma mater. Here is a closer look at four of these staff members, and how the community has changed through the years.

Steve Lantos, Class of 1980

Chemistry teacher Steve Lantos’ classroom is full of periodic tables, books and photos that are a true testament to how long he has been at BHS. His knowledge of the school is well-earned; he returned to Brookline only five years after graduating, when he was hired as a substitute teacher in 1985.

When Lantos was in high school, he played on the first ever rugby team, wrestled, played the standup bass in a chamber music group and was a member of School Within a School. He said that the environment in the late seventies was a lot more laid back than it is now.

“There were fewer graduation requirements. Fewer enough so that you could spend time hanging out with teachers after school or during free periods,” Lantos said. “Now there’s very little free time, more stress for you, more scheduling and more work to have to do at home.”

Lantos remembers creating an alternative magazine, Greenough Street Under, during his senior year. He and his friends brought their first issue to the headmaster, who was so adamantly against their new publication that he bought 75 copies to prevent anyone else from seeing it.

Lantos was never sure what he wanted to be when he grew up. When he graduated college, he twisted a coat hanger into the shape of a question mark and fixed it on top of his cap. Out of a lack of other options, he began teaching at BHS and has never left.

“None of this would surprise my high school self, and I’d be kind of pleased at what I’m doing now,” Lantos said. “I wouldn’t be surprised at the fact that I’ve stuck with one thing for a long time and that I’ve done it really well.”

Eric Colburn, Class of 1987

“BHS is better in every way now than it was in the eighties,” according to English teacher Eric Colburn, who graduated in 1987. After college, Colburn taught elementary school in New York City and did private tutoring before returning as a teacher in 2001.

As a student, Colburn played ice hockey, skied, ran cross country and enjoyed biking with friends. He said that the amount of organized clubs and extracurriculars available has grown, but that’s not the only thing that has changed.

“BHS is a much nicer place now than it was back then. People are far more thoughtful and compassionate. Not just tolerant of difference, but the students are way more nurturing of each other,” Colburn said.

One thing Colburn believes has stayed the same is the students’ independence.

“Kids here feel a sense of confidence in themselves and a sense of freedom that is not common everywhere else,” he said.

Melanee Alexander, Class of 1989

Between graduating high school and returning in 2006, Associate Dean Melanee Alexander worked many different jobs. After working for City Year, being a paralegal at a civil rights law firm and starting a bed and breakfast in Panama, Alexander eventually returned to Brookline to be closer to her family.

In high school, Alexander ran track and played basketball and volleyball. She never would have predicted that someday she would end up back at her own high school, but she’s glad that she did.

“I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to make really good friends outside of my small, defined space,” Alexander said. “Brookline is a great place with really open-minded, creative, loving people.”

Alexander said that she is still in touch with many of the people she grew up with, and even married another BHS graduate. However, the school has changed a lot since she was a student.

“We had tons more free time to be independent because there were no phones,” Alexander said. “If you wanted to get in touch with your friends, you wrote a note on a piece of paper.”

Alisa Conner, Class of 1990

After misspelling the name of the department head in her letter applying for a teaching position, Alisa Conner was hired as a Spanish teacher in 2001.

Conner sang in Camerata, was a part of the social justice project, performed in the musical and was a member of SWS. One of Conner’s favorite things about BHS, both then and now, is the freedom both students and faculty have.

“We’re better able to do our jobs as teachers when we’re able to respond to the needs and interests of the folks in our room,” Conner said. “There’s a creative energy and an activist energy among lots of students that I really appreciate.”

Conner said that Brookline has become more active in combating social justice issues, but there is still work to be done. She has many hopes for what the community will look like in the coming decades.

“I hope that there are more faculty of color. That’s really important. I hope that we have restorative justice woven into the fabric of our days,” Conner said. “We’ve got a long way to go in Brookline and it’s a conversation that is important to be a part of.”