O’Leary chooses teaching over medicine; says she’s found calling

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When Regina O’Leary was in college, she completed the biology pre-med track before deciding medical school was not in her future.

“I had done some work in a laboratory, and I was interested in the research,” she said. “I did some work at Waterways as a student intern.”

O’Leary had already completed her master’s degree by that time, and near the end of that time she decided to switch gears and take the Praxis, a teacher certification exam.

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That was 13 years ago.

“I’ve been teaching ever since,” she said. “That wasn’t my original path, but it’s the one I feel I have been led to.”

The Redlick native holds a doctorate of education from Walden University, and she is in her third year at Vicksburg High School, where she teaches advanced placement and dual credit biology classes.

“I wanted to get some secondary experience,” said O’Leary, who previously worked at Vicksburg Intermediate School. “I’m interested in teaching on the college level, and a lot of them are looking for secondary experience.”

O’Leary said since she started teaching high school she’s felt a calling.

“I think for me, I’m more free to teach the subject area, and I’m not so confined because I don’t teach a tested subject area,” she said. “I can teach more of what I like to teach in addition to what I have to teach.”

O’Leary said her first year at Vicksburg she taught chemistry and she loved being able to do experiments with the students whenever the opportunity arose and the concepts she most felt the students needed to know.

“Still in AP biology there are things I have to teach, but I can do certain labs,” she said. “This one we’re working on now, evolution, I know I can teach it in a way that lets the kids guide themselves in the direction so as to not sway their beliefs, but allow them to come to some conclusion themselves about evolution.”

O’Leary said what she enjoys the most with the upper level students is that they already have a foundation laid. She is there to build upon what they already know.

In teaching dual credit biology, O’Leary is actually teaching at the college level.

“The dual credit class is through Hinds Community College; you get a high school credit and a college credit,” she said. “Advanced Placement kind of is too because it’s regulated by the college board as well. I get what I was looking for in teaching anyway, but I can get it done here in the high school setting.”

O’Leary said she’ll continue to teach as long as students are learning.

“I try not to teach just in the book but even life skills,” she said.

“When I notice the light bulb coming on and kids are grasping information, even if I have to stop class, I will to teach them a life skill. That’s what makes it worthwhile for me — the students actually learning and appreciating the information.”