Tea Time with Katie O’Neill

Katie O’Neill is a busy teacher. Between coaching Speech and Debate and Mock Trial, leading the science center, and teaching IB Chemistry, O’Neill has a lot on her plate. Fortunately, I was able to sit down with her with a few minutes and discuss her time at NPHS as a teacher.

When and how did you know you wanted to become a teacher?

“It’s something I’d kind of always thought about it, but was scared to kind of jump into, and just kind of talking about with my boyfriend and our future and just changing a job into a career, I couldn’t think of anything else I really wanted to do. Even going through the teaching program it was really scary because I have this giant fear of public speaking, and so in my teaching classes I would cry before giving speeches and stuff, so I was still not sure it was for me, but then my first week teaching was honestly one of the best weeks of my life ever, and so it was something that from the moment I started doing it I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

What has been your all-time favorite experience while teaching?

“I love when kids get excited because they’ve figured something out, struggling with it and working and asking questions, but then when they actually get excited because it clicks, that moment, I could live for that moment every day.”

What are some of your hobbies outside of work?

“I actually just bought a mountain bike and I’ve been trying to take it out on the trails behind my house, and I live over at Mission Oaks, and so we’ve been doing a lot of exploring on mountain bike and getting used to it. So before that, I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was like 12, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Can you describe one moment of validation in your teaching profession?

I think any little thing I see where my students are successful makes me feel like I’m doing something to help them. If I had to pick one shining moment, there was one student that graduated last year that got her extended essay accepted by the city of Thousand Oaks, in terms of helping reduce energy emissions and stuff like that. It was really cool. It was something she was inspired by when I had her as a freshman, we did a debate on nuclear energy, and it really sparked her interest in renewable energy and she started a whole foundation on it, and just seeing her really take the idea and run with it and be really successful in science is kind of like, She’s gonna change the world one day, I know she is. She already is, so just seeing that come to life has been really cool.

What is your proudest moment as a teacher?

That’s a hard one. I mean, I’m proud all the time. Especially, I think, having a difficult class, for lack of a better term, a class that doesn’t seem to be buying in as much, and then being able to kind of turn that around and get them interested in loving science again, seeing the class as a whole kind of turn around, it makes me feel like I’ve figured it out myself. But aside from that, you know, I’m always proud of my students, seeing students struggle and then turn that around into success always makes me feel really proud of them.

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