O’Reilly incorporates Irish culture into class

Published 12:39 am Saturday, May 11, 2019

For Red Level High School English teacher Gavin O’Reilly, teaching was something he tried to avoid in Ireland, but eventually found his passion for it in the United States.

Born and reared in Ireland, O’Reilly graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in English and modern history with a minor in French.

“I never set out to become a teacher,” O’Reilly said. “In fact, I think I avoided it. Other people had suggested it, but I didn’t get into it until my late 20s. I tried substituting and found out that I actually liked teaching so I went back to get my teaching degree.”

After three years of teaching in Ireland, O’Reilly found his way to Missouri where he met his wife.

“I lived most of my life, until my late 20s in Belfast, Ireland,” O’Reilly said. “My wife is from the States so I moved here. I taught three years in Ireland, three years in Missouri and then wanted to be closer to the coast so we moved to South Alabama. I have taught at Red Level ever since.”

O’Reilly said that he tries to incorporate his Irish culture in his classroom as much as he can.

“I think the kids really enjoy having somebody with a different experience than theirs,” O’Reilly said. “They are intrigued about the culture and always ask about it.”

The students and the content is the best part of teaching, O’Reilly said.

“Being able to share the content with the students and watching them enjoy it is great,” O’Reilly said. “I get to bring new characters into their lives and reach them through stories.”

Growing up in a big city in Ireland, O’Reilly said that the biggest difference living in South Alabama is the size of the city.

“The biggest difference for me is that I grew up in a city,” O’Reilly said. “And now I teach in a small rural town.”

If O’Reilly could go back and give his younger self some advice about teaching it would be to not get disheartened.

“I would tell myself not to get disheartened by things that ultimately won’t matter,” O’Reilly said. “Just focus on the content and the students.”

The teaching profession to O’Reilly is serious because of all the responsibilities teachers have in their students’ lives.

“I don’t know of a profession where the responsibility is as serious as it is,” O’Reilly said. “Or where the effects are so profound. Teachers spend more time with their students then the students spend with their family and that leaves the teachers with a serious responsibility.”

Outside of the classroom, O’Reilly likes to read, do woodwork and spend time with his wife, Melissa, and his three children, Maya, James and Caolan.