I would like to introduce to you Laura O’Brien, my high school biology teacher, and one of the main reasons I am studying genetics and have the privilege of calling myself a Schulich leader. It was in her class that I discovered my love for and fascination with the life sciences. However, it is really the conversations we had in and out of class that impacted me. She inspired me and gave me the confidence to believe that I had something to offer to this world and could truly make an impact.
She studied at the University of Manitoba where she earned her Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Education and Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Education. She currently teaches grade 9 science and biology to grades 11 and 12 at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute.
I had the joy of sitting down with her over the holiday and would love to share with you some of her thoughts on career and education:
Who was someone who influenced you to pursue science?
“When I was in grade 10 I knew I wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t know what I wanted to teach. In grade 11 I had a teacher named Harry Wall, he was my physics teacher, and he introduced me to the wonders of Science. He was so passionate about what he was doing that I thought it would be really meaningful if I could inspire students the same way he inspired me.
When you have a teacher who is really engaged in what they’re doing and they really want to make science special to students you latch on to that. You’re almost forced to love it!”
How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
“I worked as a lifeguard and volunteered at the pool as soon as I was able to. I’ve just always really enjoyed working with kids. In high school, I had some key teachers I was connected with and that I had meaningful conversations with. They really helped direct me through high school; that key stage of growing up. I knew I wanted to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. At the end of the day I could do anything but the most important part was that I make a difference in the world and that I’m not just self-serving, using the gifts God gave me to help and inspire others.”
Why is education and teaching so important?
“It’s so important because you’re making significant impressions on people who are trying to figure out what they’re doing with their life, and what kind of person they want to be in the world. If you can have a teacher who connects with people, even if it’s just one or two, they could direct them down an avenue that could touche so many other lives in the same way. If you plant the seed in one person, that can touch a lot of lives.”
Most people believe they know what teaching is because they have been a student, beyond teaching content, what is teaching about for you?
“When you’re a student, you sit in class and you see the teacher as the person at the front of the room who’s giving you all this information, but really that is such a small part of the day. I have so many students who will come in and talk about what’s going on in their lives. It’s really those conversations and moments that are what teaching is all about. To me it’s really about making meaningful connections with students and trying to inspire them to pursue what they’re passionate about. I love working with students, I love seeing how they can go from point A to point B, and helping them work through situations that might be challenging.”
Do you have a piece of advice to university students?
“You need to pursue what you’re passionate about. At the end of the day you have to be excited about what you do because no matter what career you’re doing you won’t be happy every day. There are some days you will find challenging, but if you have that passion, you’ll stick with it and you’ll go back again and again to try and make it work. If you pursue something that everyone else wants you to do, you won’t have that passion to motivate you to succeed. I think you need to have that to have a good career.”