Connections crucial for teachers, students

For Mike O’Malley, teaching is all about relationships and connections.

Mike O’Malley of the College of Education helped student Genevieve Menino learn how to make connections between herself, her subject and her students. (photo: Jim Folts)

Mike O’Malley of the College of Education helped student Genevieve Menino learn how to make connections between herself, her subject and her students. (photo: Jim Folts)

“If you don’t make that personal connection, students won’t connect with the subject matter,” he says. “I’m energized by connecting with the students.”

O’Malley has passed that energy along to Genevieve Menino, who graduated last year with a double degree in Education and Family and Consumer Sciences. Even when the day’s subject matter might be a bit dry, she says O’Malley would find a way to make it interesting.

“You can tell when a professor has a passion for what they’re doing,” she says. “O’Malley brings his passion for education into the classroom.”

During her student teaching at an Oregon City high school, Menino saw the value of connections from the teacher’s perspective.

“When you connect with the subject and your students, they’re more likely to remember and understand it,” she says. “It makes them feel important and want to put out better work.”

Like most mentoring relationships, the one between O’Malley and Menino developed naturally as she took more of his classes. At one point, she was stressing out over the 18-credit load she was taking so she could graduate on time.

“It’s hard to learn when you’re stressed,” she says. “He was always very nice about working with me and helping me not to worry.”

For O’Malley, being a mentor also means being a role model. He always brings a copy of the New York Times and a current book he’s reading to class, encouraging students to explore, stretch their minds and “become who they are,” he says.

“If you can be a role model and make connections with your students, then you’ve done your job.”

As an added bonus, mentoring is fun.

“It’s burnout prevention,” O’Malley says. “Being a mentor produces more energy than you have to put into it.”

~ Gary Dulude

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