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Kelly O’Brien ’13, 4th Grade Math Teacher, Teach for America Corps Member

“It was definitely a challenge, but I never doubted that I could do it because I knew what I learned from the school of education at Merrimack was valuable and prepared me to teach.”

Kelly O’Brien ’13 always knew she wanted to be an educator. To pursue her dream, Kelly enrolled at Merrimack College to obtain a degree in Elementary Education and Liberal Arts. Throughout her studies, she was strongly influenced by her professors and field work that ignited her passion for equal education regardless of a child’s socioeconomic status.  

During her time at Merrimack, Kelly volunteered in Lawrence, MA with the Math and Science Partnership through Merrimack’s Stevens Service Learning Center. Kelly’s participation in the Math and Science Partnership allowed her to meet so many students who, despite their obstacles at home, were committed to their education and learning about the world. This experience validated to Kelly that she wanted to work in a similar community prior to graduation. Kelly also had the opportunity to perform her student teaching practicum at Franklin Elementary School in North Andover, MA where she was placed in a fifth grade class.  This experience confirmed her love for teaching upper elementary students. 

After graduation, Kelly committed to Teach for America, which is a two year program where college graduates are placed in a high need area and teach for two years. Kelly was fortunate enough to be placed in the Mississippi Delta at Carver Elementary School as a fourth grade Math teacher. A majority of Kelly’s students come to her classroom a grade level behind and very low confidence when it comes to learning. The most rewarding experience for Kelly was helping her students regain their confidence to learn and change their outlook on the learning experience.  Kelly plans to continue to teach at Carver Elementary for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Teach for America is not an easy program, and many times I wanted to quit or go back to New England to be with my family, but everything that I learned at Merrimack gave me the confidence I needed to continue to teach and get through my first year of teaching. I could apply a lot of what I learned at Merrimack through classes and practicums to my teaching. I even took lesson plans that I had created for my Teaching Math class at Merrimack and adapted them to use in my fourth grade class at Carver.

 What is the best advice you could give current Merrimack students?

Get involved! Merrimack has so much to offer, and I wish I got involved more. I waited until my senior year to get involved, and it is one of my biggest regrets. I met so many amazing people, felt a part of the Merrimack community, and learned a lot about myself too.

What is your Favorite Merrimack memory?

My favorite Merrimack memory would be being an orientation leader for new student orientation during summer 2012. I was part of an amazing orientation team and loved welcoming incoming students to a place that I considered my home.

Why are you Merrimack Proud?

I’m Merrimack Proud because of the remarkable sense of community it has. I very rarely talk to people that have had the same college experience as I did, and I know it’s because Merrimack has such a special feel to it and it is such a community. It was my home for so long and where I met lifelong friends, and for that I am forever grateful!