Nell O’Malley always knew her heart was in teaching. “I derived a lot of pleasure from working with kids,” she says. “I worked at camps for 13 years. I gravitated towards working with kids during the summer.”
But for years, she worked as a professional writer in Boston. “I was in a cubicle doing a lot of writing, and really wanted to get out of the cubicle,” she says. “After several years of writing, working in private industry, I thought, ‘This is not where my heart is.’”
Nell and her husband Mike O’Malley, senior instructor here at Oregon State, moved to Oregon in 1991. Nell worked as an elementary and middle school teacher for seven years before coming to work at Oregon State as a part-time Student Teaching Supervisor. “I had two small children, it was a flexible job, and I loved it,” she says.
Over time, Nell began taking on more roles at the university. “As the kids grew older I was available for more work. I was asked to teach a class.”
“I remember thinking ‘I can’t do that.’ But I did, and I could.”
Nell has held many roles at Oregon State throughout the years. She moved up to Program Coordinator and oversaw master’s programs at the College of Education, then took over the undergraduate programs as well before becoming the Field Coordinator for all programs. In 2011, she took over as the Director of Licensure.
Nell says her experience working in different parts of the College of Education is an asset. “I have a lot of historical knowledge about how things work, how we evolved to the place where we’re at.” Her experience is an asset, she says. Her historical knowledge is what helps her understand how decisions should be made going forward.
As Director of Licensure, Nell oversees Oregon State’s alignment with accreditation processes, working with both state and national accreditation organizations. She says some of the difficulties students face are the rising costs of licensure and the demanding standards they must meet.
“Test scores and teacher effectiveness are not necessarily correlated,” she says.
“Giving students tools for improving their test scores would be very helpful,” she says. “We’re discouraging a lot of people who would be very effective teachers. People who have emotional intelligence and commitment to helping diverse students succeed.”
Nell’s says a commitment to a more diverse teaching force is in line with the College of Education’s current strategic plan, which was launched in 2015. The plan seeks to make the College of Education more diverse, more culturally competent, and more research-driven.
Donating to help pay licensure fees for education students will help that plan be fully realized. “We’re trying to increase the number of people going into teaching, as well as the diversity of people who go into teaching. We can’t do that without resources.”