When I was younger my family and I moved quite often.  No, my Dad wasn’t in the military, but he did have to relocate frequently as a wood engineer. I used to say to my friends in Junior High, “I lived in seven states before I was in seventh grade.  Lucky for me the moving around as a family stopped by that time.  I’ve been in the Chicago, Illinois area since then.

It was also around seventh grade I had made a fairly conscious decision to be a teacher.  Struggling with Math made it certain I wouldn’t teach Math but things were different in English class.  Our class had a new teacher, a Mr. Taylor, who was very good at encouraging us to write.  In fact, even his method of punishment included writing.  I remember he would assign the dreaded one thousand word essay about “The inside of a ping pong ball” to troublemakers.  This caught my attention.  His wonderful comments on my attempts at creative writing also got my attention.  It was wonderful to finally be allowed to express myself as the oldest in a very traditional family.

College found me pursuing a degree in English, secondary education.  I wasn’t much into crafts or bulletin boards so being an elementary teacher was never appealing.  Instead I was looking forward to discussions with a high school class on literature and poetry and encouraging creative writing of course.  With that desire I was very happy to discover the English Department published its own Literary Magazine and I joined my Sophomore year.

While filling the requirements for hours in the Social Sciences, I decided to take Psychology 101.  Soon I found myself taking more Psychology courses along with those in English.  It was fairly easy for me to graduate with degrees in both English and Psychology.  Graduation came in June after I had had a few interviews for teaching positions.  Trouble was I did not have a job.  That spring and summer saw over three hundred letters and resumes mailed.  That got me three interviews.  The most promising was at a small Catholic school downstate Illinois.  The principal there invited me down to visit.  After writing an impromptu essay in the small room off the principal’s office we headed to the school cafeteria.  It was while we were in line ordering our food when I heard her surprising question, “Dan, can you teach Spanish”?   “No,” I had to answer since I selected French in high school and barely passed.  That interview ended my chances to find a teaching job before the school year began.

I did what most might have done that September.  I returned to working at K-Mart, that time’s Wal-Mart, where I had been employed during those summers while in college.  Worked full-time for a year and a half and then decided to take a different approach to finding a teaching job.  Somehow I decided to talk to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northern Illinois University.  It was a different college, closer to home.  It was also an important first step to a long career in education.  During my half-hour talk with the Dean, he suggested if I really wanted to be marketable, I should consider adding to my degree with courses in subject areas which complemented English.  My choices were to take courses in Reading, Speech, Theater, and Library Science.

This time when I went to send out resumes I sent out the first three and got three interviews.  That Fall I began teaching American and British Literature, and Journalism in a small Catholic High School in Elgin, Illinois.  After two years I faced a challenge from a new unsupportive principal who was cancelling Journalism and increasing class sizes to 40 students.  As opportunity had it, I interviewed with a public school district who needed a Reading teacher for those reading below grade level.  Within days I had resigned at one school and signed on at another.

It was a wonderful opportunity and a whole different feeling.  The principal who hired me said, “You will fit in nicely with our team of Reading teachers”.  I had found my place.  I found a place to use my talents and sponsor a high school literary magazine myself.

Over the years I’m happy to say, my teaching job evolved.  A couple of years after being hired I was teaching Reading and also working as a school librarian a few periods each day.  I replaced a Psychology teacher and enjoyed teaching that elective to juniors and seniors.  My teaching career suddenly stopped when an elderly librarian retired.  I was to be in charge of cataloging all new books and materials for all four high schools in our district.  Despite having the same employer, I was disappointed to leave the classroom.  However, I found other challenges in simply managing how to get things done during my few hours in each school having only student workers to rely on.  That was when I decided my hobby of working with computers could help.  With the purchase of a computer, something called a CD-Rom drive, and a special printer, I was printing catalog cards.  Later, I lead the district’s conversion to a computer catalog.  Eventually, when all textbooks were added to library books for lending to all 5,000+ students, I helped implement a computerized system the district could use.

When other librarians retired, another change happened.  I returned to full-time teaching English for five years until a head librarian position opened up.  After waiting patiently, I was about to find out what management was like.  It was very different for two big reasons.  From being on my own and being responsible for everything as one teacher in one classroom, I suddenly had two secretaries.  It also meant I was responsible for an entire library serving over 1,500 students, administrators and over 110 teachers.  To say I was a newbie would be an understatement.  Secretaries, older than I happened to be, were not students.  If it weren’t for the guidance of some more experienced administrators and reading about management I would not have survived.  Sure, I made a few decisions about the décor of the library.  I made a large welcome banner to hang above the circulation desk.  But it was learning to delegate and encourage my secretaries to do their best to serve our patrons that went the farthest in creating a welcoming atmosphere.

In total, I’ve enjoyed my 35 years in high school with other teachers, administrators, and many students.  Whether teaching a variety of English, Reading, and Psychology classes to freshmen through seniors or working 19 of those years as a head librarian at one high school, I’m very grateful for the variety of opportunities I’ve had.    Each job has helped me to be creative and to keep learning.  Now it is time for other challenges.  This simple blog is just a part of a new path for me, seeing what I can come up with and develop that might be entertaining, informative, and thought provoking for myself and others.  Hopefully the result will be some sort service I could provide to others.  Who knows, perhaps one day there will be a new online community because of what I started that will be of benefit.

Thanks for reading!

Dan OByrn








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