After 34 years as a school psychologist, Michael Connor knows – maybe better than most – just how busy today’s students are. That’s because it’s his job to keep up with them and help them navigate the tumultuous K-12 years with confidence and success.
Connor, one of five school psychologists who work in the Queensbury Union Free School District, plans to retire in June after three decades with the district. He recently reflected on a career that allowed him to advocate for students’ well-being, and act as a valuable resource for their educational and personal advancement.
“I think the stand-out moment for me, and it’s happened on a couple occasions, is seeing a student who has a lot of needs and challenges graduate and complete their program here,” Connor said. “For me, if I have the sense that I might have facilitated just some small part of that, I’m very happy with that.”
On average, Connor sees about eight students a day at Queensbury High School. While he said he doesn’t have a “typical” day, per se, his crowded calendar shows he’s a busy guy. From Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings, to collaborating on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), he says every day – and every student – is unique.
“Meeting with adolescents is different than meeting with younger children,” Connor said. “I think you need to develop a cooperative and supportive approach when meeting with adolescents and let them know that they’re valued.”
The one constant in Connor’s days, is his mission: to help students transition out of high school and into the next stage of their life, whether that’s college, vocational/technical training, military service, or work.
“We’re trying to help them be as prepared and ready as they can be for whatever comes after high school,” Connor said. “For those students who have more encompassing needs, we work with adult service providers to help meet those needs.”
Psychology has always been a passion for Connor, but he says it was his experience as a childcare worker at St. Catherine’s Center for Children in Albany that led him to pursue a graduate degree in school psychology from the State University of New York at Albany. He worked as a school psychologist in the Coxsackie-Athens Central School District for four years before coming to Queensbury, and he’s been a Spartan ever since.
“I’m probably the longest tenured school psychologist in the district’s history,” Connor said with a chuckle. “But here I am!”
Connor is set to retire on June 30, 2016, but taking a break from work is not part of his plans. He's looking into possibly doing some interim stints, or other psychology work. No matter what Connor does, he says he’ll always remember his time in Queensbury.