COLUMBUS, Ohio — Frank O’Grady’s got jokes. And he’s used plenty of them on students, colleagues and more throughout his near half-century career in education.
One of his latest wisecracks came when 10TV recently visited his classroom at the Columbus School for Girls. He joked that he would be the last guy out of the room during a fire drill.
That’s because, for the last five years or so, he’s been unable to walk on his own without the help of a walker.
And that’s only the latest challenge he’s faced down with aplomb. O’Grady also has had a lifelong journey with cerebral palsy. It’s what prevented him from playing the game he loved – football. But he was determined it would not keep him from coaching.
And, it did not.
After graduating from The Ohio State University in 1974, he got a job as the assistant football coach and assistant boys’ basketball coach at Bishop Ready High School. After six years there, he became the head football coach at Marion Catholic, a school that no longer exists.
“I got into teaching so I could coach, but I fell in love with history,” O’Grady says.
And that is partly what led him to his eventual perfect fit. He took a job at the Columbus School for Girls 34 years ago, never imagining he would stay.
“It was a delightful way to make a living,” he said. “And that’s how I ended up not leaving here.”
But, after 48 years in education, O’Grady is finally ready to close this chapter. He’ll be retiring at the end of this school year.
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“I’m old enough that we used to have westerns on TV, and you’d ride off into the sunset,” he said. “So it’s time for me to get out of the way.”
But there is at least one person in his life who didn’t want him to get out of the way before getting some much-deserved recognition.
O’Grady’s wife, Peg, nominated him to be a Classroom Hero.
“He doesn’t ask for compliments, he doesn’t seek the spotlight, and I thought my gift to him would be for him to get an attaboy here as an everyday hero,” Peg O’Grady said.
Peg O’Grady praised her husband’s lively classroom style and his desire to encourage students to think critically. And she says he’s loved every minute of his career.
“He became alive in the classroom, and I think, early on, he would have said he loved coaching football, but I think he probably loves the teaching as much as he does the gridiron,” she said. “I mean, he loves it. He just loves it. I’ve never heard him complain about having to go to work. When you can say that, you know, that spills over to his students, so he goes in there, he has a great attitude, he’s ready to smile, he gets his students to smile.”