Former Special Education teacher fills new role, helps kids to get ready for future

Juli Oberlander, Staff Writer

Multi-talented is one word that would describe Tom Reilly, Central’s newest counselor.

Following the departure of Doug Stansberry earlier this school year, Room 130 was in need of a new college counselor. As Reilly was taking counseling classes at UNO, that made him the man for the job.

“I was a special education teacher for 6 years at Central, but they hired me at the change of the semesters,” Reilly said. “I work with juniors getting ready for college, the ACT and test prep courses. I also help them with organizing visits for colleges they may be interested in.”

Prior to teaching special education, Reilly worked as a substitute teacher for two years, dividing his time between Central and various other schools. The counselor grew up in Omaha and graduated from Ralston High School, but he has a special appreciation for the institution where he currently works.

“I have enjoyed my time at Central,” the counselor said. “I wouldn’t want to teach or work anywhere else if given the choice. Central is a special place.”

Despite his passion for education, Reilly did not originally wish to go into the field.

“I went into college majoring in civil engineering, and decided I didn’t want to be an engineer,” Reilly said. “I wanted to be a counselor, but I needed at least two years of teaching, so I got my education degree.”

After graduating from UNL, Reilly pursued a master’s degree in special education from UNO. This, he believes, has prepared him for the variety of students he has worked with over the years.

“I like working with students outside of the teaching part and helping them problem solve,” Reilly said. “Just seeing their growth both academically and personally and knowing I had a small part in helping them do that inspires me as an educator.”

Reilly also believes he has grown through his experiences with Central students.

“I have become more confident in finding info, but also knowing that I don’t have to have all the answers, that I can find them later,” the educator said.

Reilly gives most of that credit to the students he’s mentored through Central’s special education program.

“I worked in the resource program of special education, the ones you wouldn’t know had problems,” Reilly said. “I enjoyed helping them in a few areas, such as with math.”

The counselor’s work ethic is evident in his personal life, as well.

“I like to run. I do half-marathons and marathons,” Reilly said. “I’ve got two daughters that occupy most of my time. One is three and a half and the other is two and a half weeks. Sleep is a hobby that I wish I had more of.”

The educator also enjoys going to the UNL’s annual Alumni Band Night, where he relives his days playing tuba in the band at Nebraska football games.

Even though he and his wife (whom he met in marching band) went to Ralston, Reilly is leaving the choice of school up to his daughters.

“I would be proud if they decided to attend Central,” he said.