"I sort of went into teaching by default, and but it wound up being a great career for me. Perfect actually," said Richard O'Connor.
What started as a way to avoid the Vietnam draft, became a labor of love for O’Connor, who spent 37 years as an English teacher at Masuk High School. I had him for my British Literature class sophomore year and went back for more when he asked me to be co-editor of our yearbook in my senior year.
"Being an English teacher, I think you’re the hardest worker in the building. You come home, you have a lot of essays. If you’re a good teacher, you correct them properly, write a lot of comments on them, you conference, let the students redo it, so that end of it was a little onerous at times," said O'Connor.
His teaching style was challenging, but it always had an element of fun, with O’Connor taking on the role of both teacher and friend.
"What I really loved the most about being a teacher was being with the kids. They were always vibrant, fun, funny, very respectful for the most part. I just really enjoyed being with the kids," said O'Connor.
The students enjoyed having him at the head of the class. O’Connor retired in 2007, but his legacy lives on in the yearbook class now being taught by Marie Blake. It also lives through the hundreds of student lives he shaped, including mine.
"It’s very gratifying to hear that. It’s nice to know that all of the hard work that went into my teaching has paid off, paid dividends for a lot of people. It’s beautiful," said O'Connor. "It was the best career I could have ever had."