People say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. I’d argue there’s a third: Mr. Orr wearing a one-color button down with grey trousers and dark blue denim-patterned dress shoes to work. While he may come off to simply be a trend-setting fashion genius on the surface, there is much more to a man who has become an all-star teacher in his rookie season here at VHS.
A graduate of Montclair State University, Mr. Orr first taught at Clifton High School, where he says you needed “thick skin” to work. He told me how much he enjoyed working with those students, so I asked why he wanted to make the switch to Verona. “Teaching more AP classes is why,” he admits.
Since coming to Verona, we’ve quickly come to know how entire class periods can become dedicated to an old memory of his, though Mr. Orr is a man of few words when it comes to the serious side of his life. For instance, I wanted to know the proudest moment of his adulthood. After probably five minutes of debating with himself, he told me that achieving a Master’s Degree in teaching from Ramapo College after he graduated from MSU was what he looks back on with great pride. But as you all know, this isn’t exciting enough to be a Mr. Orr response. Immediately after this answer, he explained that winning the World Series of Poker would be the proudest moment of his life, as well as if he were to become the winning contestant on the show “Survivor.” He added one more future endeavor to this list, noting, “The proudest moment of my life would definitely be winning the Little League World Series.” I’m pretty sure that in his 20’s he’s too old to participate as a player, but he clarified to me that he would love to coach a team who could make it all the way to the final.
This love for coaching is evident every day Mr. Orr comes into the room, perhaps when he’s giving us the run-down of his freshman boys’ basketball game from the night before, or discussing his Fantasy Football tactics which have failed him for yet another game week. While his Fantasy team is destined for demise, the students in his classes have all become as united as a championship squad. Wherever you go, you will find a student talking about something that happened in Mr. Orr’s class that day. “That’s really what my favorite part of teaching is,” he says. “The social growth of the class, the camaraderie that students can make with each other. That’s what makes it worth it for me.”
It is easy to see how invested he is in his students’ happiness and enjoyment in learning, so the final question I asked him was what advice he could offer to his students. “Don’t be afraid to take a risk when necessary,” he wants to tell everyone. “Try not to be a safe player. For a lot of my life I’ve been the ‘safe player.’ Don’t be a safe player.” Maybe he could be a therapist, giving out advice like that. But he knows he wouldn’t want to. More importantly than taking risks, Mr. Orr believes that we all need to “find a job that feels like you’re not actually working. You need to love what you do, and if you’re able to make that happen, you’ll never look back.”
And I think I speak for everyone when I say that it is pretty obvious that Mr. Orr loves what he does.