Features

A Chemical Engineer for 31 Years, Mr. O’Connell Transitions to a New Career in Teaching

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Mr. O’Connell teaches his sophomore Chemistry class.

Mr. Daniel O’Connell, a father of a Mount grad, a Notre Dame graduate, and a first year Chemistry teacher, has had a very different and unique past. I had the privilege to sit down with him and talk about his path to The Mount.

Mr. O’Connell grew up in a “blue collar” family. His father was a steel worker and his mother ran a beauty shop out of the basement. Living in this type of household gave him a strong work ethic, which he takes pride in. He attended Elizabeth-Forward Senior High School, a small public high school in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. Like all high school students, Mr. O’Connell discovered that he had a passion for a specific subject. This subject was Chemistry. Chemistry was essentially the best of both worlds due to his passion for Science and Math courses. Even though he was a stellar student in those two subjects, he was a well-rounded student. He normally scored very high scores on standardized tests and finished with an outstanding GPA of 3.94. This then gave him quite easy admittance into Notre Dame University.

After entering Notre Dame University, Mr. O’Connell pursued one of the most difficult majors in Notre Dame at the time – Chemical Engineering. He selected this major due to be influenced by his sister’s boyfriend, who also attended Notre Dame University. Mr. O’Connell loved everything about the field. Also, Chemical Engineering had a very good reputation of providing well paying jobs, and to an 18 year old, that is quite enticing. Even though he didn’t play a sport at the athletic powerhouse that is Notre Dame, he got into weight training. He found a passion in that, and he even still weight trains today. After his 4 years at Notre Dame University, Mr. O’Connell graduated with a 3.1 GPA and a Chemical Engineering degree. He then went on to take a job at Honeywell UOP (Universal Oil Products).

“It is better that they learn personal responsibilities now, and apply it to college, than to get to college ill prepared for the expected rigors.”

He worked at UOP in Chicago, Illinois for about 3 years. He then left UOP  for a job at W.R. Grace in Columbia, Maryland. A fairly well-known chemical engineering plant, where he worked at for approximately 31 years. In the midst of being a chemical engineer, Mr. O’Connell became a part of the Mount Saint Joseph community when his son, Danny, decided to attend the Mount. Mr. O’Connell only let Danny shadow and visit the Mount. No other school was in his mind for his son to attend besides Mount Saint Joseph. His son would then attend the school and graduated in 2014.

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Mr. O’Connell spent 31 years working in the field of Chemical Engineering before starting his teaching career at his son’s alma mater.

Now having 1/4 of the school year done, Mr. O’Connell is quite settled in as a Chemistry teacher. He also wants to see specific actions and behaviors done by students. He does not want to teach the class and have the students think “this is the work you have to do next,” he wants his students to understand why certain things happen in Chemistry and to raise curiosity in his students. He also believes that students should learn how to handle personal responsibilities, meaning their homework, studying, etc. “It is better that they learn personal responsibilities now, and apply it to college, than to get to college ill prepared for the expected rigors.” The first part of a school year as a new teacher is always hard, but after getting settled in, Mr. O’Connell has a bright future as a Chemistry teacher.

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