With his short gray hair, observant eyes, authoritative voice and stern manner, high school math teacher and Vietnam veteran Jim O’Connor is used to commanding respect in the classroom.
As a military veteran, Jim O’Connor knows all about self discipline.
But behind the scenes the 70-year-old educator has a secret that his students could never know about.
His students were quite surprised to learn about his nickname at the hospital where he volunteers…
Jim is a calculus and algebra teacher at St. Francis High School in La Cañada, Calif., a Catholic prep school for boys in suburban Los Angeles.
He is known for his no-nonsense attitude when standing in front of the class. Feared by the students he runs a tight ship in his classroom and tolerates no funny business.
Say the name Jim O’Connor to the students and they will tell you how strict he is.
“Everybody thinks he’s being really mean” until they get used to his teaching style, senior Pat McGoldrick told the Los Angeles Times.
The New York born teacher served with the US Navy and grew up in Brooklyn. His career includes three years in the U.S. Navy, when he served in Vietnam on the USS Enterprise.
Before becoming a teacher, he worked in the Holland and Lincoln tunnels as an electrician for New York’s Port Authority.
Now, Jim has been educating children for 38 years and is a formidable figure in the classroom.
“If you have a class full of 32 teenage boys, you better have some discipline. If you don’t have control of the class, you don’t have a learning environment”, Jim told TODAY Moms.
But his teenage students were surprised to learn that their teacher has a secret other life.
Tender and loving is not the side his students generally see, so they were recently surprised to find out O’Connor is a “TLC Volunteer” at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
For the last 20 years Jim has spent 3 days a week caring for sick babies as a volunteer at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.
He goes to the hospital to hold, feed, comfort newborns when their parents cannot.
Jim was first drawn to the hospital by a friend who asked him to take part in a blood drive.
When Jim also decided to give blood at his local hospital, he was curious at what the hospital volunteers did and started to get more involved.
Before Jim O’Connor ever set foot in the Children’s Hospital, he gave blood regularly at Red Cross drives, never knowing where his donations would go.
With his Type O negative blood — which is precious because it can be transfused into any patient — he kept returning to give blood and platelets, eventually becoming the hospital’s top donor.
Today he has not only donated 72 gallons of blood but is known throughout the hospital as the “baby whisperer.”
He spends hours holding sick babies whose parents cannot be with them all the time.
Jim never got married, not does he have any children yet is a complete natural with these babies.
Nurse Sherry Nolan is head of the medical unit at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.
“He holds them, feeds them, walks around with them, gets to know them and he can always coax a smile out of them,” she told TODAY.
“They just stare at him adoringly and he can really just get the crabbiest baby to calm down. It’s amazing… He’s just a natural-born cuddler.”
While Jim might be grateful for how his volunteer hours have enriched his life, he still doesn’t want other students to find out what a softie he really is.
For his students though, their new knowledge has been transformative.
“I’ve always respected him, but now it’s to an even different degree — really to the point where I try to emulate him”, senior Pat McGoldrick shared with CBS.
As a postscript, he added, “He’s the epitome of a man of service.”
What a man! Take a look at the baby cuddler in action in the clip below and have your tissues at the ready.
What a beautiful story – always say never judge a book by it’s cover! Jim has to be tough with the kids he teaches, but has a soft heart for babies.
God bless you Sir and thank you for your service abroad and here at home.❤️🙏🏻
Please share so that more people know what amazing work Jim is doing for all children and young people!