Staff Member of the Month: Connor uses his own life lessons to inspire students
When Matt Connor was in high school, he relied on a special teacher to help show him the way to a successful future. Things have come full circle for Connor, a graphics teacher who runs the MCHS Print Shop, as he tries to do the same for his students.
Connor credits lessons learned from Larry Zimmerman, his former wrestling coach and graphics teacher at Johnsburg High School, with inspiring him to offer the same life lessons to his McHenry students. Connor’s efforts were recognized with the MCHS East Campus Staff Member of the Month Award for May.
Nicole Lieber, one of several students to nominate Connor for the award, said Connor offers important lessons for inside and outside of the classroom.
“I would not have learned the many life lessons I have if it wasn’t for Mr. Connor,” Lieber said. “He has taught all of us in graphics so much.”
Michele Mercure, whose daughter Autumn is a former student, said Connor spent a lot of time talking to the family about different college options for graphic programs as Autumn prepared to graduate.
“Mr. Connor goes above and beyond for his students,” Mercure said. “He truly cares about his students.”
Connor said his childhood was often traumatic, including the loss of a childhood friend, his parents’ divorce, and the loss of an aunt and uncle. Having Zimmerman as both coach and teacher helped set him on a positive path.
“One of the lessons he’s taught me is how to be a positive influence on students,” said Connor, who also credits his wife for supporting him.
Connor, who has been teaching in McHenry since 2012, took graphics classes at Triton College before working in the field for nearly three years. He then went to Northern Illinois to complete a bachelor’s degree in physical education with endorsements in industrial technology, art and graphics.
Connor has a master’s degree in teacher leadership from Aurora University. He teaches Graphics I, II and III and Graphics Seminar. Part of the upper-level graphics classes is mentoring students to run the MCHS Print Shop, a fully functional printing and graphic design shop operating at East Campus.
In addition to teaching, he advises the East Campus Warrior Nation club, and he has coached wrestling and softball. He said he still keeps in touch with many graduates and continues to offer career advice.
Here is the video announcing Connor's award.