The School Newspaper of John Carroll School

Richard O’Hara gave students broader perspectives

February 7, 2015


Photo courtesy Richard O'Hara

President Richard O’Hara (second from the left) stands with a group of students on a trip to Spain in 1981. O’Hara taught all levels of Spanish before moving into administration.

Before he became a school administrator, President Richard O’Hara was a Spanish teacher.

“When I got out of college, I did not have enough money to go right into graduate school,” O’Hara said. “I taught [for] a matter of weeks, and I said, ‘This is it. I love this. This is great.’”

Although it was not planned, the jump to teaching came naturally for O’Hara. Throughout his career, he taught at least one class for 21 years, beginning at Woodberry Forest School, an independent school in Virginia. O’Hara taught not only all levels of Spanish but also an elective political philosophy class and even Introduction to Christianity for international students at JC one year.

Not long after he started teaching, O’Hara began taking on administrative roles.

“I was given some administrative-type assignments when I first started [teaching]. I was asked to create a service program, which is still there 35 years later,” O’Hara said.

He also ran the social activities at Woodberry Forest School because it was a boarding school, ran the summer program, and was director of counselling for his final five years at the school. He attended summer school and night school to finally gain his master’s degree in Administration.

“I like both. I like the administrative part. I like teaching,” O’Hara said. “But I think a lot of administrators say this: you miss the classroom.”

Through his career, O’Hara spent the majority of his teaching days with high schoolers. According to him, the best teachers take an interest in the lives of their students and, to have an impact, need to help them handle “the mere fact of being 15, 16, or 17.”

That’s what I loved about teaching. There was a chance every day to further somebody, to help someone, to encourage somebody, to show them a good path.

— President Richard O'Hara

“You’re dealing with a whole human being here,” he said. “That’s what I loved about teaching. There was a chance every day to further somebody, to help someone, to encourage somebody, to show them a good path.”

According to O’Hara, as he matured as a teacher, he transitioned from a get-through-the-book-by-June mentality to one that focused on the needs of the students and on making them better people.

“I came to the realization that when you teach a foreign language, you have the opportunity to move people out of their more narrower perspective and give them a glimpse into a global perspective,” O’Hara said. “I can’t effect change on a global scale, but in my world, as a teacher, I can do my part to open eyes and to encourage them to be more open-minded people.”

Kathy Deaver is the Online Chief for The Patriot and


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