Mike Conner retires after 35 years at Sheckler Elementary
Teachers come and go, but it’s the good ones we never forget.
Recently retired Sheckler Elementary School second-grade teacher Mike Conner is one such teacher. He has positively impacted students for decades.
The first thing you may recognize about Conner is he loves to laugh and smile.
“Kids love to laugh, so humor is a great motivator,” he said. “Every day, I would laugh with the children, and I would never be afraid of laughing at myself.”
Conner, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education from Millersville State College in 1982, told The Press teaching in the Catasauqua Area School District was his “first and last teaching experience.”
Conner said he chose the profession of teaching for a number of reasons. Chief among them was having been raised in a family of five children.
“We didn’t have much. I started my first job when I was in second grade, delivering milk before school, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. “After that, I worked on a dairy farm seven days a week, until I graduated. I swore I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life.”
The teachers and coaches he had while he was a student also greatly influenced his decision to teach.
“By eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Conner said.
Making Conner an even more interesting teacher was the fact he taught next to his wife, Sue Conner, who was also a second-grade teacher at Sheckler.
“I really think she made me a better teacher because she cares so much about the whole child,” Conner said.
According to Conner, his wife’s day does not end at 3:30 p.m., as she and Conner often deliver food, clothing and furniture to the families of the children she teaches in her class.
“I will miss spending the day at Sheckler in the room next to my wife,” Conner said.
What makes a good teacher? Conner said a number of factors go into making a good teacher.
“Good teachers know their children and the families of their children,” he said. “Good teachers care about all the children in their class. Good teachers are firm, fair and fun. Good teachers communicate with everyone. Good teachers make mistakes. Good teachers learn by their mistakes. Good teachers work as a team. Good teachers learn from young and old,” he said.
Conner did a number of things to make classroom material interesting for his students.
“You don’t tell them the answer,” he said. “You make them figure it out.”
Conner also said it’s important to have interesting exhibits in the classroom for the students.
“I’m not talking workbooks,” he said. “I am talking beehives, antlers, magnets, rope and pulleys, dirt, paint, glue, boxes and turtle shells. There was a known rule with the custodians: check with Mr. Conner before you throw away anything of interest.”
Conner suggests to new teachers that they never forget why they entered the profession. The reason must be more than just to receive a paycheck, he stressed.
The small community atmosphere is what makes the Catasauqua Area School District unique, he said. Although the school district is far from rich, the teachers and administrators use what resources are available for the benefit of the students.
“I have always felt Sheckler has had the best faculty to be a part of,” Conner continued. “I am always proud to say that I teach at Sheckler in Catasauqua.”
As far as what the future holds for Conner, “My wife says I’m getting a job,” he joked.
Conner said plans include doing work on the old stone farmhouse he and his wife live in, mowing the grass at the church he attends, outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing and visiting relatives across the country.
And there will also be teaching.
“I am looking forward to coming into Sheckler to substitute and see the children,” he said.