Nicholas O’Brien was hired as the dean of students at Denison Middle School at the school board’s meeting earlier this month.
O’Brien currently teaches K-12 English as a Learned Language (ELL) at Mid Prairie Community Schools, which has school buildings in Wellman and Kalona. He will start as dean of students for the Denison district on July 1.
The position is not new to the district but is new at the middle school level. Nancy McCarville fills the dean of students’ position at Denison High School.
A dean of students handles student discipline and truancy and attendance issues, explained Superintendent Mike Pardun, but he added that the position works toward proactive measures as well.
In an email interview, O’Brien said he was interested in becoming dean of students at Denison Middle School because he has been a middle school teacher for a number of years.
“Students at the middle school level are fantastic to work with during this transitional period in their educational lives,” he said.
“Denison Middle School is similar to schools I have worked in, and the community made such a wonderful impression that I was truly honored by the opportunity to work with the staff, students and community of Denison.”
O’Brien comes to Denison with 16 years’ experience in education, primarily in language.
He is a graduate of Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and Asian language and literature from the University of Iowa. He earned a Masters in Teaching Language and a Masters in Educational Policy and Leadership from the same university.
While at college, O’Brien met his future wife, Yoriko, and spent his first six years in education teaching middle school English in Japan, to be with her.
After returning to the United States, he became the K-8 Chinese teacher at Mid Prairie Community Schools and later became the K-12 English Language Learning (ELL) teacher.
“K-12 ELL instruction is incredibly important to me because it serves such diverse learners and helps them access the great instruction that other teachers are doing,” O’Brien said. “It also helps them as they become successful contributing members of the community as they become more proficient.”
He also served as a full-time teacher mentor to teachers throughout eastern Iowa, and during his summers he taught Japanese to high school students at the University of Iowa for the Upward Bound program.
“I chose a career in education because of the amazing variety of experiences a person can have in this profession,” O’Brien said. “You become a part of so many people’s lives, and it is truly one of the greatest opportunities to serve and do good in our world. The sheer impact educators have on others is incredible and for me is a huge joy and important responsibility.”
O’Brien has also been a full-time translator and outreach consultant, and was trained as an EMT.
“However, I have always wanted to be in the schools, working to serve the community, educate children and support teachers,” he said.