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Member & Activist Spotlight

Colleen O’Connell: Helping Students Grow, Progress, & Realize Their Worth

Colleen O’Connell is a Middle School Teacher in Reynoldsburg, Ohio where she is the communications coordinator for Ohio’s New Educators!
Colleen O’Connell
Published: January 4, 2021

I feel very lucky to have found a career as an educator where I can both empower students through learning and contribute to the advancement of public education in my state and our local schools through my union.  
Like many educators, working in schools is a second career for me.

I went back to school to get my master’s and certification to teach. After graduating, I began working at a middle school as a fifth-grade science and language arts teacher.
By chance, I was assigned to the gifted team. I loved providing extra attention in areas often overlooked with students identified as gifted. I feel that there are far more gifted students than are identified and that all students should have access to the enrichment gifted services offer.  

Each day, I get to practice what drew me to education—helping students grow, progress, and realize their worth.

I am fortunate to belong to a strong union. Before I even began working, my union was working for me. Following the first teachers’ strike in our area in 25 years, my union helped elect new school board members that brought real change to schools and helped seat a new superintendent who supports public education. 
Because of that union effort, I began my career with reasonable class sizes, adequate health care, and without the worry that my pay would depend on test scores.

I was encouraged to get more involved with my union, and I have begun working locally on a range of issues. I’ve also been involved with the Ohio Education Association’s efforts to affect legislation about vouchers, excessive testing, and an unfair licensing process for new educators, testifying at the state level several times. 
I intend to stay very active and encourage others to be engaged; I know the power our collective voice can have when we work together for the schools students deserve.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.