Claire Concannon

Upper School English

B.A., Valparaiso University
M.A., University of Chicago
M.A.T., Dominican University

cconcannon@morganparkacademy.org

Q&A

What do you like best about teaching here?

MPA is a very special place. Teachers have traditionally been trusted to do what they do best and that trust and freedom can lead to wonderful classes and innovations in programs. Beyond that, even after all these years the students surprise me—their intelligence and passion makes teaching a joy and their genuine interest in the world around them, desire to make a difference, to ask the hard questions and to help others all lead to many days when I go home feeling like I have become a richer person for my time spent with them.

What are the most important life lessons you want students to learn in your class?

I hope they will always find joy in learning—even when it won’t earn them any points. I want them to remember that life isn’t about being the first in their class or winning awards. It isn’t about being happy either. It is about being good, about thinking about others when they make choices. In addition, I always tell my students that if I meet them in Starbucks in 20 years, I don’t expect them to be able to tell me about the Shakespeare play we studied in class, but I do hope we can have a conversation about a book or a movie that shows me they have learned how to think and analyze.

What does MPA mean to you? Why have you made it such a key part of your life, as an alum and a teacher here since 1990?

MPA is a true community. My life and perspective has been enriched by the many fellow teachers who have been my friends and mentors over the years. The buildings are full of amazing young people and they are often accompanied by their parents—people who, over the course of my career, have also become friends and mentors and sharers of wisdom. MPA offers a great education to its students and it is an education that goes beyond books. We truly are in the business of teaching young people who will change our world.

What about MPA has changed, and what has stayed the same, since the 1980s?

The classrooms are brighter, the desks are newer, the bookstore is now the tech center, and the student lounge has moved, but for the most part, MPA has the same feel. MPA has always been a place where education was the primary focus, but that education was never presented in a way that sacrificed community or character. Students and teachers together have always had a voice and have played a strong role in shaping the culture of the school. I think that combination is the heart of the school and what sets it apart from others with a similar quality of education, and that has stayed the same.

You were the first of four Concannon sisters to graduate from MPA.

My sisters and I are lucky to have the shared history of MPA even though we graduated over the course of 14 years. We shared the experience of being taught by many MPA greats. And of course, two of my sisters had the unique experience of being in class with me as their teacher. I often think that having them share their clear and candid commentary on my teaching, my assignments, my tests, and my grading made me a better teacher.

What is it like to watch your daughter now follow in those footsteps?

Watching her learn and grow at a place that has been so central to my life and who I am is a true gift. To see the brilliance of my fellow teachers through my daughter’s eyes gives me an even great appreciation for the work we do. From watching her make her way through the halls of MPA, I am reminded even more strongly that what makes MPA great is that the teachers are filling hearts as well as minds.

What do you want your students to take away from having known you?

I am a straight arrow. I have led a pretty uneventful life. When students ask for stories of my teenage and college years I have little that is exciting to tell them. I teach at the school I went to and I live in the house I grew up in. And yet, I am happy and feel that what I do has purpose. I have a job I love, I get to spend my day talking about books, writing, and ideas with smart and thoughtful kids. I guess I want them to know that a life filled with happiness and satisfaction is the true success.