Teachers commemorate school legacy


Photo by Cindy Garraway

Legacy teachers stand proudly while celebrating the schools 20th anniversary.

Abby Mills, Design Chief

As the school rejoices in its 20 year anniversary, it celebrates the teachers who have helped build O’Connor’s legacy from the ground up. 

There are only five teachers who have been at the school since the day it opened. They helped implement traditions, such as the school colors. Brick by brick, they laid the foundation of the school and have paved the way for other teachers’ success. 

Throughout these 20 years, the school has lived through a technological revolution. How students learn information has drastically changed and teachers had to adjust their teaching methods due to the rapid changes of technology. 

“It was really traditional back then. Where you would take notes, read textbooks, do worksheets, and a lab every once and a while. That has changed a lot. With the use of technology, we don’t need to take notes on everything. We have access to things on the internet. It’s very different how you go about teaching and learning content,” said Jonathan Poe, forensics teacher. 

The school’s athletic department has flourished, rapidly expanding and obtaining more trophies each year. Yet the school has never truly lost sight of the importance of an equilibrium between academics and athletics. 

“I think we’ve always been a campus that has pushed academics and balance. I feel very supportive as a coach that athletics are important; as well as academics are important; as well as fine arts are important. I think that we balance that very well,” said Melissa Hobson, systematics teacher. 

Hobson has the unique experience of being the head softball coach since its opening. She has watched the sport grow and learned to nurture an environment for the team’s success. 

“It actually has changed tremendously. I used to be that hard, fast, no nonsense, all business type of coach. And now it’s a little bit different. We work hard but we build relationships and we try to throw some fun in there as much as you can. We stay really competitive. I changed my coaching philosophy from really just focusing on wins, to now just getting better,” Hobson said. 

These teachers have gained experience and insights on the art of instructing, compared to when they first started 20 years ago. 

“Back then, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing a whole lot. It was really stressful, just trying to make lessons. It’s much more intuitive now. I am able to think like a student pretty well, thinking about how they would be looking at what we’re doing. That just comes with years of experience,“ Poe said. 

When the school first opened, it vowed to support students.  At no point in the past 20 years has the school broken its promise. 

“I think it’s always been for the students. We have really been focused on the students, no matter who the admin is because we’ve had a couple different changes there. It’s always student driven,” said Melissa Mara, science teacher.

Over these last 20 years, the school has undergone a variety of administration changes, teachers learning to modify their teaching style to fit the needs of administration. 

“You just embrace what that administrator is trying to accomplish and then at the same time, make sure that you stay true to your teaching style as well. As long as you make sure that those two things mesh and you’re always here for the kids first, then that is the most important thing,” Mara said.

Although many teachers have come and gone in the past 20 years, for some, leaving was out of the question. 

“There’s no perfect place, no perfect school, no perfect district, no perfect school board. Every district has its issues. I liked the people that I am working with. I love our kids, our families, our neighborhoods. It’s a great place to be, so I never had the desire to leave,” said Kim Parker, English teacher. 

For the teachers that have stood with the school since day one, they have developed a strong admiration for one another over time. 

“We remember certain things that not everybody does and we share those same experiences. I think we have this very strong mutual respect for each other because we came out of the same place,” Parker said. 

These teachers have watched many past OHS staff members leave the school. Although they are not currently working at OHS, they are remembered fondly. 

“Some of my closest friends are people that have taught and worked here. I’ve seen a lot of them come and go off to different places and different adventures,”  said Jeff Baumgartner, systematics teacher. 

The school has allowed teachers the flexibility to teach what they want, some even making big career jumps throughout their time at OHS. 

“I am a coach at heart. And when a P.E. position opened I went ahead and applied for it. I loved special ed., but sometimes change within what you’re doing is good to keep you fresh and renewed, so P.E was the route that I took,” Hobson said. 

OHS has evolved and grown for the past 20 years—along with its teachers. Just as the school has grown up, they have too. 

“It’s been great. One of the great things of my life is seeing this school for the last twenty years. I went from being the young, cool guy on campus and now I’m the old dinosaur on campus,” Baumgartner said. 

Some teachers graduated from OHS, choosing to come back and work at their alma mater later in life, leaving their previous professions behind. 

“I was with the police department before this. When it comes down to it, I love coaching. I love being around students. So I decided to hang up my badge; hang up my gun. And come back to the school where I grew up. I grew up in the neighborhood. I grew up around here. I know what’s going on with it. I decided to come back and get into teaching because I wanted to be a part of rebuilding something here,” said Tom Devito, history teacher. 

Previous graduates at OHS now are on the other side of a classroom and witness the joys that come with teaching. 

“I love being with them everyday. They give me energy. I’ve always said that too. If I’m not really having a good day they will give me energy,” said Rachel Kittridge, English teacher. “They make me laugh and that is what I really appreciate about them. When they are willing to learn, it’s a really good thing to watch.”

Teachers who have been at the school for the past 20 years reflect on its history, feeling a deep sense of fulfillment in the legacy they created. 

“We take ownership of the school. We voted on the school colors. We voted on the mascot, what things would look like and some of the traditions to help it evolve has grown up. I am proud of it and the work we did,” said Parker. 

Even though the school dramatically evolved throughout these 20 years, some things never changed. 

“The kids are still the same. They still have the same goals, dreams, fears, and worries about life. The core of them has not really changed regardless of technology or size of our school or what the culture of the school is,” Parker said. “They’re still kind, still caring, they still care about school. Those things have never changed.”