The Long Island Business Teachers Association recently named Wantagh School District Business Education teacher Nancy O’Connor the 2019 Business Teacher of the Year.
“I’m very honored and humbled,” O’Connor said. “I’ve been [teaching] since 1991, and I just love it. It doesn’t seem like a job to me. It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
O’Connor, 50, was recognized on May 22 at the association’s annual awards ceremony at the Wind Watch and Golf Country Club in Hauppauge. More than 150 teachers and students from across Long Island attended the event.
Stacy Cabrera, the organization’s president, stated in a news release that O’Connor was a “superwoman” whose lessons as a teacher “never fail to be updated, and are consistent with the changing times.”
O’Connor, who graduated from Wantagh High School in 1987, said that her district Business Department colleagues Christine Compagnino, Bobbi Colavita and Jamie Stanulis nominated her for the award. “Take a look at Nancy’s desktop calendar,” Compagnino said in the release, “and it will validate her widespread dedication, commitment and passion for her profession.”
O’Connor teaches four classes at Wantagh Middle School and one class at the high school. Her favorite class is eighth-grade business management. “We do a big ‘Shark Tank’ challenge,” she said. “The kids get to create their own business, and then they pitch them. I invite people from outside, like entrepreneurs … and they’re the sharks, or judges. The kids get so excited about presenting for them.”
The project includes creating a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy — a business model that holds a company “socially accountable,” according to Investopedia. “They have to think about how they’re going to give back and make the world a better place,” O’Connor said.
This year, the class also created blankets for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, a home for sick children and their families in New Hyde Park. The blankets are made from fleece pieces with ties around the edges. The students themselves deliver the blankets to the facility.
The class also took field trips to the radio stations BLI and WBAB, to learn about advertising, and to the John Theissen Children’s Foundation.
O’Connor said that learning about business gives students life skills, including the ability to create presentations and make pitches, and being financially savvy. “A parent just sent me an email yesterday that said I’m teaching stuff in these classes that can’t be learned from a textbook,” she said. “I just feel so passionate about giving them skills to succeed in high school — especially for my middle-school kids — college and just for life.”
In addition to teaching, O’Connor is involved with several middle school clubs. She is the Entrepreneurial Club adviser, managing the middle school store, the Computer Science Club adviser and a Memory Book Club co-adviser, as well as a class adviser for the class of 2024.
She is also a corresponding secretary for the Long Island Business Teachers Association executive board, and the membership director of the Business Teachers Association of New York State. “I just think it’s important to be involved [and] stay involved with those organizations,” she said. “I just love networking, because I feel like I can share my expertise, and then I love learning from all the other business educators around the state.”