Brendan O’Connell recently began teaching at the high school as an Alternative Choices in Education (ACE) teacher. O’Connell started his career by working in Central Massachusetts and New York as a history teacher, dean of students, and principal before developing his love for teaching English. In his free time, he enjoys playing fantasy baseball.
What motivated you to become an English teacher?
When I taught at Codman Academy, they didn’t have straight-up English classes; they had Humanities classes, which is a combination of history and English class. So when I got exposed to the teaching of English, I think I enjoyed that—the teaching of writing, getting to know students through their writing, reading books, performing plays.
What’s your favorite thing about teaching and why?
I love working in schools because there are so many people that you get to see every day. They’re all part of the same community, and it’s nice to have that sort of liability every day—hanging with people that you know, all for a good purpose.
How does a program like ACE compare with your own experiences in high school?
It’s very different. As a high school student, I went to a large high school—Redding High—and there were about a thousand students in the school, so it was a large community rather than a small one. Here at ACE, we’re in one location, and a small community. At this point, I know everyone in it.
In your opinion, what’s the importance of programs like ACE?
I think it provides an option. It’s a different approach, and when I was working at a charter school, that’s what I appreciated about it. I think I’ve been exposed to different types of schools, and I know that some families and students want—or need—something in particular, and they can’t always find that in every single school.
What books or authors have had a profound impact on you?
I enjoyed the writing of Ernest Hemingway. That’s what I most enjoyed reading when I started looking into writing as a craft. I think that his writing is different from what I read before, and that made me appreciate the choices he made as a writer and the stylistic aspect of writing.
What important lessons do you want your students to learn from you or your class?
That hard things are able to be accomplished through breaking things down into smaller parts and through mastering techniques.