It’s one thing to be taught something, and another to listen to somebody talk about their actual experiences. For me, this is one of the many things that makes Mr. Donoghue a great teacher.
Because of his passion for seeing the world, he’s able to share personal stories with his history and world geography classes. He’s able to give his students insight and personal knowledge that would never be found in a textbook. He’s always planning his next big adventure. And while he tries to live in the moment, he lives for creating good memories and always having something to look forward to.
“It just opens up your eyes to what else is out there. ‘Cause you can be very close-minded and you don’t realize that there are seven and a half billion people out there who have completely different lives. So you get to see, just for a little bit, what it’s like to live where they live, and how they live. I think that’s really, really awesome. So I think everybody should experience that at some point.”
Because he travels so often, he’s able to see things from many different viewpoints.
“I think there are too many people who have extreme ideas one way or the other. I think whoever has an extreme idea — let’s just say in politics — people who are far right conservatives, people who are far left liberals, those people don’t understand someone else’s perspective. So they’re wrong, I think.”
This is an important belief for teachers to have. Every single class has so many different students from so many different backgrounds. To be accepting, kind, and understanding of students is key and it’s something that his students really appreciate.
“People are kind of blinded sometimes by their own beliefs and they hear the other side but they don’t actually accept that that’s a valid point of view. And again, not even just in politics. It could be for anything. I think people should just be accepting of other people’s views or beliefs. You should be able to see someone else’s point of view, and if you don’t agree with it, at least understand it.”
Mr. Donoghue makes sure that his classroom is a place where his students know they can comfortably share their thoughts and ideas.
“You should be able to see someone else’s point of view, and if you don’t agree with it, at least understand it. I think that’s something that I would really like to see more ‘cause I feel like too many people are just on opposite sides of things.”
He grew up in a small town with a happy family, a sister he’s very close with, and a close-knit group of friends he’s still in touch with today. In fact, he and his friends are going to Scotland next week.
Naturally, his dad was one of his biggest role models growing up.
“He was a teacher, a football coach, played sports growing up, eventually became an athletic director and a principal. I’m going back to school for my administrative certificate so I think he was probably number one. When you’re a young male, I feel like you just always really look up to your dad.”
He’s always been proud of his younger sister too.
“I’m always proud of my sister one way or another… She’s an architect. She does really, really cool stuff. And I obviously miss her now that she’s not around anymore and I kind of have to see what she’s doing through social media. And I know she’s super smart — probably even smarter than me — so I definitely take some inspiration from her. She’s really, really tough; she’s her own individual. And I definitely miss her.”
Like many high schoolers, he had a hard time imagining where he would end up after graduation. He just knew he was excited to move on to the next chapter and focus more on his schoolwork after a busy four years in high school. After a year of going to college at Rutgers, his first year not playing school sports, he decided to transfer to do what he loved — play football — while he was still able to.
He never imagined that he would end up teaching at Seneca, the place where he went to high school. He had done interviews at other schools when a position at Seneca opened up. He was unsure about returning since he was already known there — he had been a student there and his mom had worked there since the school opened.
“I already knew she had established herself as one of the ‘it’ people at Seneca.”
However, he knew that his mom played a huge role at the school which could work in his favor.
“I’ve grown up at Seneca, my mom works at Seneca. [I asked myself] do I really want to be at Seneca? And then after thinking about it a little bit, I was like ‘Alright, this is an easy decision. Let’s just do it. I can always leave if I want to.’ And now I never want to leave.”
Now, he can’t imagine his life any other way.
“I can be my own person, but kind of follow her lead. She set the example of what Seneca and ‘Seneca family’ really should be.”
Having his mom by his side was definitely an advantage, but it was also important to him to establish himself as his own person.
“I think it takes getting to know someone before anyone can actually see who you really are. Even when I started back at Seneca, people saw me as my mom’s son. They probably saw me as what I was in high school: a guy who liked to play sports. And maybe they didn’t know anything else about me. Maybe they didn’t know how much I really love school, how much I really love kids.”
He loves the path his life is going down.
“Every year, I think stuff just gets better. In high school, you think it’s the coolest thing, you’re with your friends. And then you go to college and you’re like ‘Wow college is so much cooler than what we just had in high school.’ And then you graduate college and you had a great time and then you go get a job. And then you have money and you can kind of do whatever you want, and you’re on your own. So I feel like things just keep getting better.”
Though many changes have happened in his life, his family’s support has been constant.
“It’s really cool when you have your family as your core group. Not everybody has that, so I always try not to take that for granted.”
This year is his mom’s last year before retirement. Of course, this change will be very new to him but he’s excited to help Seneca carry on her energy and spirit.
“Everybody’s gonna have to pick up the slack. So, if I’m one of those people, great. Let’s just keep moving this thing forward.”
Last year, his family hit a bump in the road. They had to face a possible reality that they never thought they would have to face.
“It was after she had a doctor’s appointment. So I just come up the steps and she was in my kitchen, kind of being weird, tears in her eyes. I’m like ‘what is going on?’ You just get that panicked feeling. And that’s when she told me she had breast cancer. You don’t expect it. My mom’s fairly young — fifty-six, turning fifty-seven. You’re expecting your mom to live on forever and then something like that happens. I think that’s the scariest moment, especially recently, that I can remember.”
Obviously, nobody deserves to hear this news. Especially not somebody like Mrs. Donoghue.
“My mom is definitely the most positive person that I know. And we’re gonna really miss her at Seneca, but I think that’s something that this school is gonna carry over too — just kind of embracing everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are — you could be the custodian, you could be the kid who sits in the corner, you could be the coolest kid in school — it doesn’t matter. She treats them all the same and makes them feel good.”
Moving forward, he will approach life a little differently because of this experience.
“Time runs out at some point but you just don’t expect it to be soon. I think it just makes you not take anything for granted. You then see your family — the life that you’ve had for so long — being challenged. That’s really scary. And then you realize, ‘I’m thirty years old, what’s to say that something like that couldn’t happen to me or someone else that I’m close with who’s even younger than that?’ I think it gives you a lot of perspective. It’s scary to think about but it’s just another challenge that you sort of have to battle through.”
Seeing something like this happen to such a prominent figure in his life was extremely difficult.
“She handled it well on the outside. To everyone else. So if you asked her about it, she’d be totally fine. But I know internally she was not fine. And I think it’s the little things, too. Stupid things, like ‘Am I gonna lose my hair?’ Does that really matter? No. But on the outside if somebody doesn’t really know you then they just pencil you in as ‘Oh, that person has cancer.” And you don’t want to be defined by any one thing. You want people to just know you for who you are.”
It’s always been important to him not to judge people, but this made it clear to him more than ever before.
“Most people — especially when you get to talk to them and take down their walls a little bit — you can have a legit personal connection instead of just what you see on the outside.”
I see this belief come through in class every day. It’s clear from Mr. Donoghue’s passion and enthusiasm that he genuinely loves teaching and working with his students. He shows interest in every single student and treats them with respect and kindness.
“I always liked being around kids, whether it was my little cousins or when I was in high school, I just felt like a school environment is where you really have a lot of impact on people. And it’s the little things that could send somebody on a path that leads them to really figuring stuff out. I think you see that in school a lot.”
Not only does he teach his students, but he listens to and learns from them every day.
“Every day I feel like you can learn something from kids. When kids open up to you, now you understand where they’re coming from: their background, their family life.”
From his current coworkers to his fifth-grade science teacher who chose him for a science award, many people have touched Mr. Donoghue’s career. His high-school history teacher had the biggest influence on the teacher he is today.
“She was just the best teacher that I ever had. She was really dedicated to the subject material, but she also was really great at connecting to kids.”
The little things like this made a big difference for him both as a person and as a teacher.
“I think teaching is an underrated profession. I think there are some people out there that don’t give teachers the respect that they deserve. I know how hard all these other people work at Seneca, so even if it’s not credit for me, credit for educators in general for the impact that they have on young people. I think that’s huge. I would really like to see teachers get recognized for all the hard work they put in. ‘Cause again, you’re not doing this for the money. You’re doing this because you want to have an impact on young people.”
The great thing about teachers is their passion for what they do. They teach because they want to, not because they have to.
“I think it’s a lot more fun and worthwhile to have a job that is impactful on other people.”
As long as he plays a small role in his students becoming passionate, kind people, he’s happy.
“That’s what [teachers] like to see — is that we have some kind of impact on making cool people for the world.”
The big picture is more important to Mr. Donoghue than the small inconveniences in life.
“Don’t stress out so much about all of the little things, because in the end, it’s the big things that really are going to matter. So just make the right decisions — the right decisions for you — but don’t stress out about the small things. It’s easy to look back and say ‘I regret this, I regret that,’ but I think you just have to keep rolling with the punches. There’s always a new opportunity for you to make something of yourself.”
He’s not worried about getting attention and being well-known; he just wants to be remembered by the people he loves.
“The people that are gonna know your legacy are the people that you’re closest to. So I think that’s the only thing that really matters — if they know that you were doing the right thing. But overall legacy-wise, if you think about it, you’re one in seven and a half billion people. So it’s so hard to have a legacy that’s going to be remembered except for those people who are close to you. So as long as they know I was a good person and did the right thing, that’s the only legacy that I want to have.”
Mr. Donoghue is the person he is because of his strong family values and the role models he’s had throughout his life. I know that I can walk into his class every day and learn from a teacher who is caring, energetic, and passionate about what he’s teaching. And as a high school student, these things can make all the difference.