Jonathan OConnell

Pre-Kindergarten Lead Teacher

Where did you grow up?: I grew up in the Hilltop neighborhood of Denver. I went to Carson Elementary, Merrill Middle School, and Denver School of the Arts where I majored in Acting. Denver, and Colorado in particular will always be home. I love the mountains, the cool summer evenings after a rain, and riding my bike along the trails.

How long have you been working with children/teaching?: I took my first assistant teaching job the year I graduated from college, in the fall of 2013. It was in an advanced kindergarten classroom at Stephen Knight Center for Early Education. In 2014 I did some traveling and returned to run the youth programs for a Denver recreation center. In the fall of 2015 I took a second assistant teaching position at SKCEE, this time in a pre-k classroom. It was this experience that lead me to apply to the Stanley British Primary/Boettcher Teacher Residency program in the fall of 2016 to gain my teaching license. My first residency was at Eagleton Elementary in a 3-5 pre-k classroom, and my second was at Steele Elementary in Kindergarten. This will be my first lead teacher position.

What led you to a career in education?: I would say that education chose me. My undergrad was in the study of fine arts, and I was looking for jobs in the arts industry. When this proved exceedingly difficult I took my first assistant teaching job, and found that working in preschool allowed me the creative outlet that I needed every day. A career in ECE is an extremely special thing, and I feel blessed that we found each other. Not only do children expand my understanding of creative thinking, they push me to be a more empathetic, passionate person in my every day life.

What is your favorite thing about working at DCP?: This will be my first year working at DCP, but it is the only school where I applied for a job. This is because they have a strong philosophy, backed up by a joyful and professional staff, and a dedicated community of families. DCP embodies the ideal model for a preschool, and I cannot wait to join the beautiful community that they have fostered.

What is your favorite thing to do in the classroom?: Like the children, I bounce back and forth between my favorite places to play, but I would have to say that my heart lives in the wonderful lessons that the natural world can teach us. The daily discoveries that the science center has to offer always excite me, and inspire me to think of more and more creative and immersive ways to explore them further. I also enjoy creating immersive environments within the dramatic play area of the classroom, building upon them with student suggestions, and watching the play evolve along with the theme.

What are your hobbies or passions outside of DCP?: I am a true born Coloradan, who loves to hike, camp, backpack, snowboard, and roast marshmallows over the fire. My urban passions include gardening, biking, soccer-playing, concert-going, brewery-visiting, dancing, and visiting with friends and family. My great passions include a love for the natural world, the outdoors, and innovative urban gardening and permaculture design. I am an avid traveller, and soon hope to visit the South American countries of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. I greatly desire to become a fluent Spanish speaker, and hope one day to move permanently to a South or Central American country so that I may live amidst both the mountains and the rainforest, my two greatest loves.

Where can we find you in Denver (favorite spots/hangouts/places to visit)?: I frequently register people to vote at concert events and often can be found cutting up the rug at Red Rocks and the Ogden. I live only four blocks from Diebolt brewing company, and can often be found there behind the ping-pong table, paddle in hand. I enjoy attending first Fridays on Santa-Fe, and frequent the RINO area on bike for late-night fun other weekends. You will often find me riding along the Cherry Creek and Platte River trails, or playing soccer at the Bladium on Sundays.

Tell us about your family?: I am the eldest of three. My brother, Adam, is entering his senior year at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and my sister, Joanna, is working at an architecture firm here in Denver. My sister and I play together on three sports teams. My mother, Alison, is an assistant teacher at Cory Elementary, she was born in Hayfield, England, and grew up in Mexico City. She is hiking fanatic and is responsible for giving me the nature bug. My father, Kevin, works for a pea-protein based milk start up company called Ripple, downtown near Coors Field. Conveniently, both he and my sister work near where I live, so it is not difficult for us to meet up for a drink or a ball game after work. My extended family is international, and range from New Zealand to France to Scotland to Los Angeles, but we remain close. I will be visiting two of my cousins this December when they have their first child.

What did you want to be when you grew up?: When I was a preschooler I called myself Jonathan the Big Fast Train, so it’s safe to say that I wanted to be a train when I grew up. In Elementary school I seem to recall that I wanted to be a writer. I was a huge bookworm come third and fourth grade. I also wanted to be a professional soccer player in Middle School, and then an actor once I was in High School. When I started to travel I just wanted to do that for a living. Now I just want to be happy, and ambitiously so.

What do you remember most about being a young child?: I remember mythical hikes through the woods, and long days in Washington Park. I remember inventing games with my best friend, and visiting my grandparents. I remember dinners outside in the summertime, and cool walks to the park afterward. I remember playing with blocks and knights in the basement, and running around with makeshift swords in the backyard. I remember our cat Opus, and the first time I played N64’s Diddy Kong Racing.

What was your favorite thing to do as a child?: I loved trains most of all, and my secondary loves included medieval knights and dinosaurs. But trains were the thing. I had a battery powered train that would run on tracks and I used to build some truly epic circuits. I also really enjoyed hiking, always have.