Seventy-five years ago a postage stamp cost three cents and bread was eight cents a loaf, the first McDonalds opened its doors, and CBS demonstrated the first color television. The U.S. had not even entered World War II yet.
It was also 75 years ago when Sister Kieran O’Connor began her remarkable teaching career and there is no sign of her stopping any time soon.
If you think 75 years of teaching is cause for a celebration, you are not alone. On December 18, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown honored Sister Kieran for her service and incredible career by proclaiming it “Sister Kieran O’Connor Day” in the state. The day was also her 94th birthday.
More than 800 current and former students, teachers, staff, friends and various dignitaries gathered at Saint Christopher School in San Jose, to witness the proclamation despite Sister Kieran’s request to “keep it simple.” The day was a celebration of a life spent in service to the thousands of children she has taught and the innumerable teachers she has inspired and guided.
Sister Kieran was born Frances Bridget O’Connor in 1921 in San Francisco. She was one of nine children; four of which became nuns–three Sisters of the Presentation and one Daughter of Charity. She attended Saint Vincent de Paul Grammar School, Academy of the Presentation High School, and San Francisco College for Women where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree and a lifetime general teaching credential. Shortly thereafter, she entered the Sisters of the Presentation in 1939 and took her final vows in 1944.
It was with the Sisters of the Presentation that she began her teaching career in 1940 at Saint Agnes School in San Francisco. In 1963, Sister Kieran was moved to the South Bay and opened Saint Catherine School in Morgan Hill where she served as both teacher and principal. Later she became vice-principal at Saint Patrick School in San Jose. For the past 32 years, however, she has been at Saint Christopher School where she serves as a vice-principal.
It was in her earliest years of teaching at Saint Agnes School that she had Urie Walsh as a student in her 1st grade class. The two have remained in contact over all these years and she often attends their reunions. (In fact, Sister Kieran has a remarkable talent for recalling names and family histories of all her former students.) It was Mr. Walsh who told his friend and former classmate, Gov. Jerry Brown, about his teacher who was still teaching after 75 years. The governor was so impressed that he issued the proclamation. The rest is now California history.
Incredibly, Sister Kieran has no immediate plans to retire. Many believe that it is her active involvement at the school and with the children that keep her so youthful. You won’t find Sister Kieran sitting in an office either. She can be found checking in on classrooms, walking the hallways, on yard duty at recess or even taking her weekly technology lesson so that she can keep up with the changing times.
Will she ever retire? Only time will tell. For now she continues to be an example to all that know her as she lives the motto of the Presentation Sisters, “Not Words, But Deeds.” For it is her actions for the last 75 years that have touched the lives of generations and her legacy will continue well on after should she decide to retire. She has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of thousands of students and now, too, the history books.