Mrs. O'Connor

She gets us every time with her dead-pan humor.

Ask Kerry O'Connor, GICC science teacher, about her favorite part of the school day, and she fires back without batting an eyelash, "Three-thirty."

It's not true, of course. Well, maybe it is. Mrs. O'Connor has cherished her almost 25 years at Central Catholic. Even when opportunities arise to work elsewhere for a heck of a lot more money, she declines the offers.
Mrs. O'Connor, middle front, with her second period anatomy and
physiology class.

"I would never leave GICC," she says. "This school has always been a safe place for me, and from the very first day I walked in the door, I felt welcome."

Teaching has always been in her blood. She recalls playing school with her sister - complete with a blackboard, desk and books. She credits a high school biology and anatomy teacher at North Platte High School, however, for guiding her to a passion for science.

"I love life science and discovering how the body works," she says, "and I love sharing the subject matter with kids."

She loves sharing her humor, too. Senior Ryan Pilsl recalls his anatomy and physiology class last year with O'Connor when he suddenly realized he'd forgotten his textbook.

"Mrs. O'Connor?" he raised his hand, thinking quickly. "I really need to go the bathroom," he pleaded with convincing agony. When he returned bearing the forgotten book, Mrs. O'Connor looked up innocently.

"And did you find your physiology book in the bathroom, Ryan?" she asked pleasantly.

Her anatomy students learned how the joints of the body worked when Mrs. O'Connor required students Luke Wemhoff and Andrew Kulp to break dance like Michael Jackson in front of the entire class.

Senior TJ Haith remembers falling asleep in Mrs. O'Connor's class. Later, to his horror, he discovered she'd taken pictures of him all the time he slumbered. It's the O'Connor method - to discipline with her own unique humor and absolutely no angry outbursts. Students agree it's very effective.

At Central Catholic, she is a beloved member of a close-knit community. Mrs. O'Connor makes everything fun - in the faculty lounge, in her classroom, and even in teachers' meetings. Her wry humor cracks us all up. But her students know it's not her only sterling trait.

Recently, a former student who now attends Wesleyan University - Joseph O'Connor - sent her a paper he co-authored for a prestigious science publication on Antimicrobial Therapeutics. Whatever that means.

"Just thought you'd like to see what I've been up to, Mrs. O!" he attached a note to the article. Kerry was not only proud but touched that he chose to share it with her.

She saves a particularly special note from Haley Roush, another former student, whose college assignment was to write a letter to a high school teacher who made a difference.

"You were always my favorite teacher," she wrote to Mrs. O'Connor. "You inspired me every day because every class was filled with learning and humor. You are also incredibly kind and caring, you never turned anybody down for a recommendation letter or a little help, and everything about you is what I strive to be as a teacher. I hope to be just like you."

GICC's Kerry O'Connor
That, says Kerry O'Connor, is what makes the job worth it. "It's the conversations and relationships you have with these kids," Kerry says. "Being a part of this school allows me to step away from my own struggles sometimes. Kids won't let you be unhappy. They're in your face demanding your attention. But they're also there for you when times are rough."

During this past month when her husband Tom was dealing with health issues, Kerry says she received a text from one of her senior students. "We're praying for you and your husband, Mrs. O'Connor!"

Those are the moments of grace that keep Kerry O'Connor at Grand Island Central Catholic.

"Oh no," she shakes her head. "I could never leave."

Lucky for us. It wouldn't be much fun around here without Mrs. O'Connor.


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