Get to Know the Ridley College Faculty: Mr. Paul O’Rourke

We have amazing teachers here at Ridley College. They’re passionate about learning, have a great sense of humor and truly love what they do! We decided to ask teachers a few questions in order for you to get to know them better.

In this interview we spoke to Mr. O’Rourke.  He is a Lower School teacher, a soccer and debate coach, a former housemaster, and a Ridley parent – click here to read an interview with his daughter, Jacqueline ’14. Mr. O’Rourke really connects with his students. Through his own passion for the speaking arts (debating and public speaking) he creates a spark in students which develops into a love of debating and public speaking.  As you will read below he also has a great sense of humour!


1) What did you take in University? Why did you pursue this?
History was something that I was interested in from high school onwards. I decided to study it at university, but I also encountered other subjects such as English and Politics. The basic rule of thumb was that if it involved a lot of reading, I was interested in it.

2) Did you have any other interesting jobs before coming to Ridley? 
When I was at university I was President of the Students’ Union. This was a full-time position and I developed a passion for debate and public affairs during that time. I also spent time working on a local vineyard in the summer. The fresh air and pleasant surroundings were attractive, and I gained an appreciation for the importance of hard work. Each of these jobs helped me understand that working in a profession (such as teaching) is a real privilege.

3) What do you teach/coach/involved in at Ridley College and why do you love it? 
I arrived at Ridley having started with the Sports Ridley summer program. My expertise was in soccer, and I have coached it since my first year at the school. Other sports such as basketball and tennis piqued my interest, but soccer has been the mainstay as far as sport is concerned.

Not surprisingly, the subjects that I have taught at Ridley are English and History. I have taught in both the Lower School and Upper School from grade 6 through to grade 12. The subjects that I teach keep me reading and help me gain an understanding of how history and language help shape our society. I try as much as possible to pass along my enthusiasm for these subjects to my students.

4) What is your passion? What do you like to do in your spare time?
As well as coaching soccer, I have been a debate and public speaking coach at Ridley for many years. Politics is a passion that I have, and this is a natural bridge between coaching debate and following public affairs.

Finding the right balance between reading and exercise occupies the precious spare time that exists outside of school life.


5) What do you love most about Ridley? 
I most love the friendships that have developed with various people that I have met during my time here. These friendships have developed naturally through the ease of contact that takes place at our school. There are obvious ones such as those involving colleagues, but they have also extended to families that have been met as a result of various interactions. Being the parent of two Ridley graduates, and one current student, I have also come to enjoy the wide and varied relationships that have developed at Ridley through my children. These experiences have been both local and global in nature, and have enriched our lives as a family tremendously.

6) What is your favourite place to go in the Niagara Region? (Restaurant, tourist spot, any place!) 
Since moving off campus a few years ago following a long-time stint as houseparent, I have had more time to explore the Niagara region with my family, particularly my spouse, Kim, also a former houseparent. Together we have a weekend morning routine that involves a breakfast at one of our favorite local places (there are several nearby Ridley), followed by a leisurely trip to the Farmers’ Market located in downtown St.Catharines. It is a great place to get fresh local goods, catch up with friends, and become connected to the community.

7) Do you have any funny stories about your time at Ridley? 
When our daughter Erin ( OR 2011) was born we were houseparents of the junior boarders’ residence known as Governors’ House. She was born on the May long weekend, and we looked forward to a quiet weekend at home with our newborn baby. I was filming the arrival of mother and child arriving on campus, when one of the students from the residence appeared from out of nowhere on his bike to inquire about getting back into the dorm for something that he had left behind for the long weekend. Naturally we obliged the boy, and welcomed our daughter into the all-consuming world of boarding life. It was also a nice reminder that we lived as part of a close-knit community that supported and cared for one another.

Many other episodes of campus life involved the adventures of our much-loved Yellow Labrador (Caesar). He had a terrific knack for getting off the lead at the most inopportune times- wedding days in the Memorial Chapel, formal dinners in the Great Hall and suchlike. Fortunately the hosts of these events had a good sense of humour and appreciated the predicaments that family pets can get into. The passage of time allows me to smile about it now, but there were some cringe-worthy moments!