Auburn Family

Senior Turned Junior: Discovering a College Student’s Passion

Senior year proved to be just the beginning of an adventure for an accounting major who would make a decision altering his graduation, career path, and outlook on life. 

Senior years are usually filled with a season of lasts; however, this was not the case for Nate Conoly, an Auburn alumnus and current teacher at Vestavia Hills High School. Nate Conoly pictured left in his graduation robes near Samford Hall. Photo courtesy of Nate Conoly.

Conoly entered Auburn undeclared in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM). "I literally had no clue what I wanted to do so I just started in COSAM because that was where my three other roommates and best friends were and I could be with them,” Conoly said.

Later, following his longtime interest in math, Conoly declared an accounting major only to realize he didn’t want to spend his career crunching numbers behind a desk.

Conoly then began to experiment with his freshman roots in engineering classes in hopes of finding a major that was math related but potentially more exciting than accounting. This too was not meant to be. With graduation lurking in the coming months, Conoly made a decision to take steps backward before moving forward. His senior status would change to a junior status after making the decision to change his major to mathematics education.

The idea of becoming a teacher wasn’t foreign to Conoly. He said, “In high school, I always thought it would be cool to be a teacher.” However, Conoly admitted that stereotypes and money prevented him from pursuing his interest from the start.

Thus, after being challenged by one of his close friends to break norms he had a change of heart. “I changed the way I view success in the world--not by money and status, but instead by relationships and the impact you have on other peoples’ lives. Very few professions provide more success in those terms than teachers,” Conoly said. Conoly later praised Auburn’s math education program and said that his coursework and professors prepared him well to begin his career as a teacher.

Although Conoly’s story was a winding one, the end result has been fruitful. Lauren Dressback, an assistant principal at Vestavia Hills High School, praised Conoly by saying, “Nate Conoly is an outstanding classroom teacher and an even better person. He is the model of dedication. He spends weekends and summer vacation working with students. He is also the model colleague. He dresses up for every pep rally, participates in events around the school and is encouraging to those around him. He is a tremendous asset to Vestavia Hills High School.” Nate Conoly pictured above helping a student. Photo courtesy of Sydney Cromwell/Vestavia Voice.

When asked if he could leave any advice for college students searching for their passion, Conoly said, “Don’t let any other person or the world dictate your path in life. Don’t follow friends. Don’t follow stereotypes. And above all else, don’t follow money. You will never have enough and constantly chasing it is fruitless. Follow your heart and your passions will be revealed.”

Conoly unearthed his passion, stepped past career field norms and continues to positively impact his students everyday.

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