Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!
Imagine having around 50 different parts to your job. Do you think you could handle it if the responsibilities ranged from giving tours at the San Diego Zoo to bringing animals from the Zoo to visit children’s hospitals? Ms. Maya O’Connor does all this and more. Ms. O’Connor is an Educator Guide here at the San Diego Zoo and one could say that she is a Jack, or Jill rather, of all trades.
In having so many responsibilities it becomes difficult to maintain a constant schedule. Ms. O’Connor can do anything from working with animals, so that they can become animal ambassadors (animals that are trained to travel and do presentations for the public), to traveling to places like schools and children’s hospitals, to giving animal presentations to Zoo guests. Education programs cater to different age groups, in different settings and also have different themes. She also works for other animal departments, either cleaning, preparing diets, or working animals. The title of Educator Guide is fitting for Ms. O’Connor since some days she really does act as a guide for guests and she has always loved the education side of things.
Before coming to work for San Diego Zoo Global, Ms. O’Connor was a high school teacher for three years. In her own education she has a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science with a Minor in Education. She received her Teaching Credentials in Biology and Agriculture and also has a Masters Degree in Education. All of her degrees came from the University of California, Davis and it was these degrees that enabled Ms. O’Connor to teach at a high school. While Ms. O’Connor was teaching, she taught Agriculture and was an advisor for the Future Farmers of America. After a few years she realized that she needed different scenery. An application to the San Diego Zoo landed her a position in the Education department.
Starting out at the Zoo means getting to do the most popular guest experiences, like bus tours and the Inside Look tours offered. When she was first hired Ms. O’Connor only worked part time so she had three jobs; one at the Zoo, one with outdoor education, and one as a substitute teacher. As she gained experience at the Zoo, she was able to do more things, such as starting to work with the animal ambassadors and some of the other programs that the Zoo organizes. Now, she works full time at the Zoo and has over 50 different responsibilities, such as Zoo sleepovers (where guests have the opportunity to stay at the Zoo overnight), but she loves her job and since it is always different it can be very exciting.
Everyday Ms. Maya O’Connor gets to combine her passions: animals and teaching. She may not have always known that she wanted to have the job of Education Guide, however, she loves what she does. She gets to teach the public through programs such as Conservation Outreach, where the staff goes to offsite locations to teach people who may not have the opportunity to visit the Zoo. She also gives tours (her favorite being the poop tour that she gave one time), and works with the public at the Zoo through the Education department. While she may be busy, she does a great job. So I ask again: Do you think you could handle this job?
Morgan, Careers Team
Fall 2012, week one