by Daniel Rossi-Montero
Robert Linfors' name is forever linked to Christopher Columbus High School. Linfors spent 28 years at Columbus teaching English and other subjects before being moved to his current post as Dean of Students. His path to this position of leadership, however, was lengthy and twisting, beginning in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
Linfors was born in Maryland, and his father was a military man stationed there. When Linfors was seven years old, his family was transferred to Miami. It was here that he attended Columbus and graduated in 1985. Linfors then went on to study English and History at Florida International University (FIU).
Linfors' desire to teach was instilled in him during his time at Columbus from a teacher and eventually a colleague, Fred Panzer. Panzer was a long-time English teacher at Columbus who greatly impacted Linfors' love for English.
"Still to this day probably the most genius teacher that I've ever been around, who taught me and worked with me," Linfors said. "He's brilliant and a heck of a guy."
Unfortunately, when he graduated from FIU, there was a hiring freeze in Miami, and he couldn't get on the substitute teacher list. He worked at Publix, a local supermarket, while in search of employment, but he grew increasingly frustrated. Eventually, he turned to connections from Baltimore, where he found the opportunity to teach.
In the summer of 1992, Linfors left Miami in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and moved to Baltimore. He was added to the substitute teacher list for the city and took classes at Morgan State University. It wasn't an easy transition, but Linfors' determination paid off. In January of 1993, one school sought Linfors' interest to become a full-time sub for the rest of the school year. After that, he became a full-time teacher.
For two years, Linfors taught in an inner-city middle school in Baltimore. Linfors said they needed role models in their lives, which was a key factor in his motivation to teach. Two and a half years of teaching in that environment really impacted Linfors and helped form the foundation for his love of teaching.
"It was an incredible experience," Linfors recalls. "The kids loved coming to school and wanted to get ahead in life."
Despite constant conversations with family members attempting to convince him to come back to Miami, Linfors still had a very large commitment to teaching in Baltimore. He made connections there, and he formed a bond with his students. Eventually, he found his way back to Miami when he landed a job teaching English at Columbus in 1995.
"The only job I would leave Baltimore to work for is to work at Columbus," he said.
When Linfors started teaching at Columbus, he taught sophomores, which he says is the most difficult year for a student. He also taught seniors, which he loved because he could really challenge them. Linfors is a big Shakespeare guy and loves teaching British literature. He taught every grade and class of English and also taught print journalism, U.S. culture and various other classes such as creative writing.
At Columbus, Linfors started a literary magazine called "Forma Mentis," which was an excellent platform for students to showcase their writing skills. Eventually, all this experience of teaching led him to create an elective called "Hobbitology," which he based on his love and commitment to the "Lord of the Rings" books and lore. Linfors grasped the elements of magical imagination, and if students didn't want to read, he would recommend they leave Columbus.
After many years in the classroom, Linfors was given the opportunity to become the Dean of Students, a position he holds to this day. While he initially had reservations about taking the job, he now sees it as a great way to help students and continue to grow and learn as an educator.
Throughout his career, Linfors has remained committed to the idea of being a lifelong learner. He believes that there is always more to learn and that the best teachers are those who are constantly looking for ways to improve and grow. He encourages his students to adopt this same mindset, urging them to always be curious and to never stop learning.
Mr. Linfors always reflects on his experiences and relationships from attending and teaching at Christopher Columbus High School. He knows the impact of the school on his life and career, stating that it is his livelihood and it has given him lifelong friends, including his colleague and friend, Mr. Kevin Corazon.
Linfors identifies other major influences of his teachers, specifically Mr. Dean, who was both his literature teacher and football mentor, and Mr. Staiano, who taught him how to be a Christian man. Linfors emphasizes the importance of loving what you do and being a good person, which he learned from his experiences at Columbus. He also notes that while the school's identity as a Marist school is important, what is more important, to him, is what he learned as a student there.
At Columbus, and what Mr. Linfors continues to see as an educator here, is the sense of brotherhood and community.
“It's something that is hard to describe unless you've experienced it, but it's like a bond that extends beyond just four years of high school. It's a bond that lasts a lifetime, and that's something that I'm grateful to Columbus for. It's given me a sense of belonging and connectedness that I don't think I would have found anywhere else. It's also given me a platform to make a positive impact on young people's lives, and that's something that I take very seriously.”
As a teacher, Mr. Linfors strives to be the kind of role model that his teachers were to him. Mr. Linfors’ goal is to inspire his students to be the best version of themselves. There are so many dedicated and passionate teachers here at Columbus who are making a real difference in the lives of their students every day.
“So, to sum it up, I'm grateful to Columbus for so many things - for the friendships, the mentors, the sense of community and the opportunity to make a difference in young people's lives. It truly is a magical place, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.”
Looking back on his life and career, Linfors feels grateful for the opportunities he has had and the people he has met along the way. The lessons he has learned have helped him overcome the many struggles that he has had throughout his personal and professional life. He sees himself as someone who has been blessed with the chance to make a positive impact on the world, and he hopes to continue doing so for many years to come.