Engaged Learning

CNN Features School of Management Professor

by Gene Thomas

Professor Kim Connor was featured on CNN recently in her role as a volunteer writing teacher for young kids through the nonprofit organization 826 Valencia.

Professor Kim Conner volunteers as a teacher at 826 Valencia. Story on CNN USF School of Management

826 Valencia  was named after its street location in the Mission District of San Francisco, and was founded in 2002 by educator Nínive Calegari and author Dave Eggers, who were looking for a way to support overburdened teachers and connect talented working adults with the students who could use their help the most.

826 Valencia operates its classroom/writing lab inside The Pirate Store, a working retail venture which David Byrne has called “among the top five pirate stores I’ve ever visited.”  

Click to view the CNN video

Kim Conner at 826 Valencia
Kim Conner at 826 Valencia

We checked in with Professor Conner for some background on her volunteer work:

What motivates you to volunteer your time?

Several factors motivate me, including the fact that my son has benefited from the programs at 826 Valencia so I was inspired to give back. But also, as an educator, I am proud to promote the organization's effort to support public school teachers and students.

What do you get out of it?

Pure joy. Few things are as gratifying as being part of an organization that makes magic every day and transforms the life of so many--from the earnest and talented young people who staff the center to the eager and grateful students who benefit from the programs; they all give me hope for the future.

How does this kind of volunteer work feed your work at the School of Management? How do you think it relates to the mission of the School of Management?

826 Valencia practices a kind of management that characterizes the mission of our school--social entrepreneurship, where doing good is enhanced by sensible and responsible business practices. The organization provides an excellent example of so many leadership traits we promote and also of skillful ways to accomplish great goals with limited resources. I also sharpen my pedagogy because teaching outside of your customary demographic forces you to be more creative in communicating.

What’s important to you about 826 Valencia?

Among many other things, just the fact that it exists and that it emerged and thrives thanks to people of good will and immense talent like Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari, the founders. As so many of our institutions fail us these days, 826 Valencia still illustrates that we can actively work to move our world toward the common good.

What do you teach here at the School of Management?

I teach ethics to degree completion undergraduates and graduate students in Public Administration.

What’s it like to teach in a pirate store?

A pirate ship is a perfect setting for inspiring imaginations and getting students to recognize how to pay attention to the details that make a good story. Also, since they sell pirate beard black, I'm always on the lookout for Giants reliever Brian Wilson because I'm sure he shops here to keep his beard in shape.

What is actually going on between you and the Blue Pirate who lives upstairs?

I'll never tell! They might make me walk the plank!