Alumni Feature : Paige O’Brien (Takach), ’15


Jade O'Brien

Since graduating from Saint Joseph in 2015, Paige O’Brien (Takach) has gone from being the one taught to being the teacher. She has been a kindergarten teacher for almost 2 years with her first job right here in town at Saint Joseph Grade School, straight out of college.

She has been in the South Bend area her whole life so far. She remembers her time at Saint Joe and is grateful for what it has brought her. The biggest being her current fiance, Peter Takach, who she will be marrying a few days before Christmas! Though during her time at Saint Joe, she was involved in clubs and took many AP classes. She said she was very grateful for Mrs. Amy O’Brien as her teacher (and no, there is no relation between them just a coincidence with the names).

She stated, “She really prepared me to be a good writer in college. You enter high school really only knowing the 5 paragraph essay [but], I feel like I really grew as a reader, writer and person in her class.”

She graduated from Saint Joe and headed to Saint Mary’s College to continue her education career and get her degrees. While at Saint Marys, she spent her time preparing for the real world, as you do in college right before entering the workforce. While at Saint Mary’s she majored in Elementary Educations and had two minors in Early Childhood Development and Reading Concentration. She made the dean’s list every year at graduation she was awarded the Mary A. McDermott for Excellence and Scholarship in Teaching which is awarded to one elementary education major based on grades and success in the classroom.

Though her school did a good job of preparing her for the workforce and being a very immersive program of going into the classroom and making lessons, nothing truly can prepare you for the real world. This is especially true when a worldwide pandemic arises.

The transition from college to working made not have been perfectly smooth, but she felt as if Saint Mary’s did a great job preparing her for what to expect. Her curriculum in college consisted of sitting in on classes to then developing lesson plans and becoming an aid,  then eventually just being in the classroom around the area in both public and private school working with kids. While in college she had many jobs that helped her in the long run in being successful in her career. She worked the ECDC program in the summers for both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College and developed relationships with the students that led to more opportunities in expanding her tutoring business she had on the side along with being a babysitter for many of these families. She really was able to grow in her academics in and out of the classroom throughout her whole college career and prepare her as best as they could for being a teacher of her own classroom. 

In her time as a teacher, she has been able to experience all three modes of learning thrown at us due to COVID-19. When all was still normal in the world she was super excited about starting her first job at her ideal placement and grade level. She really has been preparing for this moment. Children’s books have been piling up in the basement of her mother’s house, collected  for the past 4 years waiting to have a stamp be placed in them titled “Mrs.O’Brien-Takach’s Library.” Kindergarten really is the time where children learn the fundamentals and basis of all education to develop reading , writing, and comprehension skills. This makes it a very important time and necessary to be more hands on and interactive for the kids to be more immersed with the content and what is happening. 

Teaching virtually is something that no one has been able to be ready and prepared for. As it was a big adjustment for students, it was an even bigger adjustment and challenge for teachers like her. With only half a year of experience being a teacher in her own room full time, she now had to learn how to get distracted kindergarten engaged in a whole new way. Redesigning her lesson plans to fit the way of learning was consuming on its own, but figuring out a new way to properly assess them on their progress was a bigger problem on its own. The thing with assessing kindergarteners is that you can’t just grade them on the accuracy in what they are doing, you have to focus more on the process of how they got to what they answered. For reading and writing, it involved the teacher listening to if they are breaking up the word and sounding it out. It’s seeing if they are messing up on the same thing multiple times or if they are working around the situation to help themselves. 

“The teacher’s job isn’t just from 7am to 4pm when you see them. We are always working for the students. We are either making lesson plans, grading assignments, giving extra time and practice for students who need it or handling parents’ concerns. As much as it seems like we have breaks we don’t because our main job is to be there for the student’s and their needs.”

Her advice in the end is to “be nice to your teachers, they are doing what they can to help you succeed. They are there to help and support you. They are giving all they can to you. Just be nice to them and respect them.”