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“Watkinson taught me that relationships are the key to inspiring students."

Have a great story to share? Contact Alumni Relations Director Kristen Gordon.


Steve ’80 and Liam ’14 O’Brien

Father and son educators are making a difference in the lives of Connecticut children! 

Steve is a 5th-grade teacher at Aiken Elementary in West Hartford and Liam is a paraprofessional at Avon Middle School.

Steve received West Hartford’s Teacher of the Year award in 2016. Aiken Elementary had never had a Teacher of the Year, so when Steve won the whole community celebrated. For Steve, “It was great seeing the joy in everyone’s eyes! It’s important to note that this award does not mean you are the best teacher, but that you have been named to represent the district for the coming year and I was extremely proud to do that.

“Past Watkinson teacher Dave Holdt was my advisor, teacher, and role model and  showed me that kids have so much to offer and so many questions to explore. They need room and encouragement to try things, to know that it’s OK to struggle and that it’s worth the effort to succeed. Watkinson taught me that relationships are the key to inspiring students. The friends, teachers, and mentors I had at Watkinson meant so much in helping me on my journey and it is why we sent Liam to Watkinson. I try every day to pass that along to my students.

Inspired by his father, Liam admits that his dad being a teacher played a huge role in his choice to be a paraprofessional. “I was fortunate enough to work at his school for a time, which encouraged my thought of working in the field of education. I started at Granby middle and high schools as a special education paraprofessional for four years, and am now going into my second year in Avon as a general paraprofessional. Watkinson definitely helped me understand the importance of in-class conversations and doing your best to fully engage students in conversations. I use that knowledge in the class and give kids the chance to talk about things they are interested in and to ask important questions.”

Kathryn-Ann O’Brien, Steve’s wife and Liam’s mom, is an art teacher, so every night they all swap teaching stories. It is the family mindset to give their students a better day than the day before. Liam says, “It’s nice that, as someone relatively new in the field, I have people to go to for advice if I am having a problem. I’ve grown up listening to my dad’s – and later, my mom’s – teaching stories, and now I have my own stories to tell!”

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