by Michael Ward
Our next teacher feature is Mr. Dan O’Grady. O’Grady is a teacher at South High School in Columbus and is passionate about equity in education. He was raised in the Pittsburgh area and later moved on to become an English major in college. Eventually, he became a teacher because he wanted to make a positive impact on students through being a positive figure as well as educator.
He believes in breaking through the “whitewashed” history barrier in education and makes an effort to teach students history that is rarely taught through literature in his English class. When teaching that history he is “prepared for any response” because he acknowledges that there are different perspectives in the room and there might be different responses to the material. With that being said, he does not shy away from tough conversations; he embraces it and believes that productive conversations start from this uncomfortability.
I asked him, “How much does he think the school a kid comes from impacts their version of the American dream?” O’Grady responded saying, “The school is a reflection of a community,” and the school a kid comes from greatly impacts their expectations for life. He teaches at a school that educates many students that struggle with poverty and reside in communities where upward mobility is hard to come by for many reasons, one glaring reason being the city of Columbus sacrificing the growth of the schools for the growth of business and the city. O’Grady attempts to combat the expectations and narratives predetermined about his students by the “whitewashed” history of the city and its schools. In his classes, he takes the initiative to mentor and tell stories of success so he can do what he can to help his kids have as open a trajectory for their life as possible by introducing them to narratives that inspire them.
O’Grady has facilitated an Erase the Space exchange before with our last teacher feature, Laura Risaliti, and they are doing it again this year! Students from South High School and Olentangy High School will meet at Otterbein this week to complete their year-long exchange about inequity in schools and larger structures that create those we have seen during the pandemic.
Michael Ward is a senior at Olentangy Orange High School. He is passionate about social justice and has been active in different movements from the summer of 2020 on.