This year, the History Department welcomes new faculty member Paddy O’Halloran to Concord Academy. Having grown up in Providence, Rhode Island, O’Halloran sees his return to New England as a homecoming from his earlier endeavors. Before CA, he worked as a history professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and spent five years teaching and studying history and political studies in South Africa. 

O’Halloran got his first taste of teaching not in a classroom, but through Irish music and espresso bars. In high school, O’Halloran played the tin whistle and taught it to young students and adults alike. He also worked as a barista in Providence for six years, training employees in operating espresso machines and other appliances. 

When he arrived in Grahamstown, South Africa, as a graduate student at Rhodes University, O’Halloran stepped into the classroom as a tutorial instructor in Political Studies. Outside of large lectures, he frequently met with undergraduates for smaller-group discussions and check-ins. “It was fun right away. The experience stuck with me,” said O’Halloran. While doing his PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, O’Halloran transitioned to becoming a history lecturer at a smaller university, where his lifelong interest in the subject flourished. “I like the imaginative aspect of history. You're imagining a world—the world—and trying to think of how to ask questions about it,” O’Halloran explained. 

One of the new courses O’Halloran is teaching this year is Problems and Possibilities in Independent Africa. In it, he dives into how citizens and authorities in various African countries attempted to re-organize society post-colonization and examines the interaction between the severe problems and bright possibilities that ensued. O’Halloran said, “I'm approaching it as it was delved into in the classes I took, the seminars I attended, and the people I interacted with in South Africa. We aim to put an emphasis on African scholars and thinking about Africa not only through its significance to the United States, but the historical and present significance to the continent itself.” O’Halloran wishes to share his enthusiasm for learning history outside conventional perspectives, challenging his students to look beyond narratives and sources with which they are familiar.

O’Halloran describes his path to CA as a stroke of serendipity. Wishing to transition from Lafayette into a secondary school teaching career, he discovered the open position in the History Department on the last day CA posted it. “I felt very lucky. I had heard of CA, but it was outside of the scope of what I knew. I then started learning about the school, applying, and then getting to visit last spring,” said O’Halloran, who then arrived at CA to teach a series of sample lessons. “A job interview is not always fun, but I had a really fun day in CA,” he said.

When asked how his first few weeks at CA had been, O’Halloran smiled and said, “Tiring! But really good.” He acknowledged that deciding his favorite thing about CA would likely take him several more months, even years. But so far, he loves seeing how members of the community interact with so much comfort. “It hasn't been my experience with students in college, but people at CA are very open and comfortable with having strong ideas and opinions. That isn’t always common in high school,” O’Halloran said. 

Outside of teaching, O’Halloran enjoys playing music, letter writing, and hiking. He looks forward to diving back into these passions after fully settling in his new home in Massachusetts. For now, O’Halloran is excited to explore all CA offers, including his first chaperone experience at Friday night board games in the SHAC. Let’s extend O’Halloran a warm welcome to CA!