Government teacher pushes through in last month before retirement, still learning as he goes

Nathaniel Rudolph, Staff Writer

For many teachers in the school, this new way of learning is easy to adjust to, figuring out the technology and complications of the internet. For government teacher Mr. Michael Conner, it has been a hassle to tweak his teaching methods for the online platform, all the while  knowing that the last time he would see his students was the day before Spring Break.

For Conner, teaching has been the same for the 35 years he has been teaching, it’s always been in a classroom, creating endless connections with students. Now that this virus has relocated his classes online, it’s hard to adjust. “I feel like a first-year teacher,” Conner said. “There is so much preparation with planning lessons and formatting them for online.”

Conner is a traditional teacher through and through and has been a life-long learner.  He actually started off as PE teacher before finding his passion in teaching history and government.  He loves being in class with his students.  Even though this is a challenge for him, he is pushing through. “I’ve learned so much, growing as a person, as many of us do during challenges,” Conner said. “I just wish for the students and teachers’ sake that we remained in the classrooms, being face to face.”

For many students, this is a haven for staying at home and doing their work in their bed, but Conner believes this was a way of learning is not benefiting learners. Although relaxing at home is a necessity for student’s mental health, relationships between students and teachers don’t flourish through a computer screen.

“I don’t believe this is effective for our students,” Conner said. “As someone that has taught many years, I’ve learned that the best way to give students a good education is to build relationships, engaging directly with them.”

As Conner stated, engaging with students is a key part of education, but with a wall of uncertainty between the students and the teachers, engagement is largely decreased, and students are less likely to pay attention. Even though most teachers prefer the old ways, they are making the best of what they have and still proving great lessons for their students.

Besides wanting to be in front of a class, Conner is unhappy about the fact that he won’t see any of his current students in class again. “As many people know, I am retiring, and this is so hard for me, I loved engaging with my class, getting to know students. But with a computer screen it takes all the fun out teaching,” Conner said.

For Conner, this is not how he envisioned finishing out his career, leaving a hole in his span of teaching, as he will remember ending on a sour note, but like the Class of 2020 is recognizing right now, his future is wide open from here.

Retirement is a blessing for some as they have more time for the people they love and that is exactly what Conner plans to do. “I don’t have anything concrete for my future, but I have two daughters and I’m excited to spend time with them and play the father role until they move on,” Conner said.

Loving teacher, amazing role model, and warm-hearted human being are only some of the words students would use to describe Michael Conner, but his boss for many years would expand on his impact on the school. “Mike Conner has been a friend and a mentor to me and many teachers at Greeley West. The epitome of consistency, Mr. Conner has been there for his students and his athletes at GWHS for almost three decades. He has had a lasting impact on hundreds of teachers and thousands of students throughout his career and will be one of the people I think about any time I think of a “Greeley West Spartan,” Mr. Jeff Cranson said.