Most students know Dr. Richard O’Dell as “the guy who takes pictures at sports events.”
O’Dell an associate professor of Special Education, has used photography as an icebreaker during his nine years at Mercyhurst.
Students also know O’Dell as the guy with the camera at sporting events where he also interacts with them.
According to O’Dell, education in the next five to 10 years will be different from the education in the last 180 years.
“New generation teachers are smarter than older generation teachers and bring more enthusiasm to the job,” says O’Dell.
O’Dell does have some qualms about the future of the teaching profession.
“My fear is that education will become more industrialized,” O’Dell says. He describes the process as a “standard movement” or “fill in the blank” education. He wants to remind educators that they work with human beings, and that education must be individualized.
“Teachers have to come into the classroom with a good sense of humor and not take themselves so seriously that they shut down communication with students. Communication is what we aim for.”
O’Dell says that the job calls for a human being, not a computer, and that teachers need to be friendly in order to build an open line of communication with students.
O’Dell worked as a school psychologist for 11 years and did adjunct work at various universities for six years before coming to teach at Mercyhurst. He now serves as an adviser for Council for Exceptional Children/Expanding Sociability Opportunities (CEC/ESO), and he works closely with the Wattsburg school district, where Mercyhurst special education students perform their practicums.
O’Dell also maintains a partnership with the Bridge School of Mountainview, Calif. Every year he visits the summer institute with 10 to 16 education students for nine intense days of working with physically disabled and autistic children on learning social skills.
Outside of his work at Mercyhurst, O’Dell enjoys cooking, hiking and watching “Mythbusters”.
He says that the accomplishments of his career are not a tangible thing, but he enjoys making a difference in the lives of his students and helping them become better educators.
O’Dell freely admits that his reason for coming to work in the morning is that, “Mercyhurst has the best students in the world.”