As a high-school social studies teacher, Richard O’Connor offers a variety of topics from history and government to economics and geography.
The new Redwood Valley High School educator not only brings with him a college education that indicates he is qualified to teach, but he also brings a lifetime of experiences that will be able to aid him in his classroom.
Having grown up in St. Paul and graduated from Como Park High School, O’Connor did not set out to be a teacher. After graduating from high school, O’Connor earned degrees in history and music from Northland Environmental College in Ashland, Wis. O’Connor said he discovered the school while on a sailing trip in Wisconsin. One of the places he stayed was at the college where he would study after high school.
With his degree in hand, O’Connor did not choose to immediately enter the working world. Rather, he boarded a canoe with a fellow college graduate, and they then embarked on a trip down the Mississippi River landing at river’s end.
O’Connor would spend the next couple of years working toward being an EMT in Louisiana doing various jobs, and it was during a job he had as a valet that O’Connor began wondering about his future. Filling a parking lot with cars only to see that lot empty again at the end of an event left him unfulfilled, and knowing that his two roommates were planning to leave, O’Connor took the initiative and left first.
Admitting he is not necessarily the kind of person who makes lots of long-term plans, O’Connor looked for his next adventure, which led him to a job as a deck hand on a sailing ship. During that experience on a historic tall ship, O’Connor was able to travel throughout the Great Lakes area and in his second year made a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean giving him the opportunity to see the world.
Adding “sailor” to his resume, O’Connor then returned to Minnesota and got a job working in metal manufacturing rising through the ranks in tool making. Again, after five years in that career, O’Connor felt unfulfilled.
“The work was very isolating,” said O’Connor, adding, again, he was not seeing a lot of the fruits of his labor as what he was making was being shipped elsewhere.
What O’Connor determined was that he wanted to be around people and that he wanted to make an impact on the lives of others. So, he opted to return to school earning a Masters degree in education from St. Catherine’s College.
O’Connor began his career in teaching as a middle-school social studies teacher working with sixth graders in Minneapolis. He worked there for half of a school year before opting for a new experience. So, he accepted a role as a high-school social studies teacher in Redwood Falls.
“This is my first full-time teaching job,” said O’Connor.
Despite growing up in Minnesota, O’Connor admitted he had never been to this area of the state, adding his girlfriend, a teacher in Willmar, helped convince him to make the move out of the metro area.
O’Connor said he was impressed with the local school district from the beginning, and after several weeks in his new position that positive impression has continued. O’Connor pointed to the administration, the culture, the staff and the students as all great elements of the school, adding he is truly enjoying the chance to be at Redwood Valley.
“This is a great school,” said O’Connor.
Not one to sit still, one might find O’Connor out walking as he prepares to make a trek along the Pacific Coast, hoping this coming summer to make it through the State of Washington. Making trips like this is not new to O’Connor, as in 2016 we walked the first half of the Appalachian trail.
O’Connor is settling into his new, rural setting and his role as a teacher, and, despite seeing so much of the world, he is happy to be an educator in Redwood Falls.