Haley O’Connell ’18, ’19 (M.S.) Brings Special Education Background to Nearby Public School

O’Connell currently teaches at P.S. 81, minutes away from campus.

Haley O'Connell sitting in classroomA teacher serves not only as an educator but also as a mentor, a guide, and an inspiration to their students. 

Haley O’Connell ’18, ’19 (M.S.) was inspired by her educators at Manhattan College, and wanted to follow in the path they created for her and her classmates. She received her bachelor’s degree in childhood education, then received her master’s degree in special education a year later.

“Manhattan College provides you with such great opportunities,” O'Connell said. 

One particular opportunity was in Kappa Delta Pi, the education honor society, where O’Connell worked on projects such as Safe Halloween and reading events for children on campus. “I felt like I was making a difference in the community,” she said. “When I became a teacher in the community, that belief was confirmed.”

But like any college experience, there were challenges. “When I was an undergrad, I struggled with time management one too many times,” she said. “I always tried my best to get my work done on time, but I would often wait until the day before to write a six-page paper and a lesson plan.” 

One particular faculty member that helped mentor O’Connell during her time on campus was Lisa Rizopoulos, Ed.D. “She is so kind, compassionate, and dedicated to her students,” O’Connell said. 

After completing her studies at Manhattan College, O’Connell started as a fourth grade special education teacher at P.S. 81 in North Riverdale. 

While reflecting on how her experience at Manhattan College prepared her for a career in teaching, O’Connell says she realized that she had been given all the tools she needs for success as an educator. 

“Manhattan College prepared me to be a kind, compassionate and dedicated teacher,” she said. “I’m not sure if I really learned this at work, but becoming a teacher has strengthened my love for helping others and the immense reward that comes from educating others.” 

–by Taylor Carroll '17, '23 (M.S.)