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Students Discover Tough Teacher's Softer Side (Video)

A math teacher's students thought he was strict and mean, but when one of them saw him holding a woman's baby, they quickly learned he had another life he was keeping hidden from everyone (video below).

Students were hesitant to express their opinions of Jim O’Connor, a math teacher at St. Francis High School in La Canada, California, reports CBS News.

"He's going to be seeing this, right?" the student asked.

In his algebra and calculus classes, O’Connor embraces his tough reputation, notes the Los Angeles Times.

"You want to teach a class with 30 boys, you've got to be strict," O’Connor said.

Until students get accustomed to his deadpan humor, “everybody thinks he’s being really mean,” explained then-student Pat McGoldrick.

"Like in our class, he'll put a problem up on the board and then someone will say, 'Oh, can you do it this way?'” said McGoldrick. “And then he'll respond, 'Oh yeah, I'll just do this and I'll just change that and I'll do all this extra work and I'll get the same answer. It's totally worth it.'"

"It drives me crazy when people say school should be fun," O’Connor told CBS News. "I mean, it's nice if it could be, but you can't make school fun."

After working to recruit volunteers for a blood drive, some students learned about the impact that O’Connor has had on many lives outside the classroom. McGoldrick, who was in charge of the blood drive, attended a meeting a Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Whenever he mentioned his school, people would say, "Oh, you must know Jim O'Connor. Isn’t he wonderful?"

"It was disbelief, really," McGoldrick said. "It was almost, like, kind of finding this alter ego that he has."

McGoldrick discovered that his strict, mean teacher was actually living another life -- and it all had to do with holding babies. In addition to being the hospital’s top blood donor, O’Connor also volunteers at the hospital three times a week. For over 20 years, he’s stepped in and taken care of babies and children when parents were unable to do so.

"They tend to calm for him," said nurse Erin Schmidt. "They tend to relax with him. They fall asleep with him."

"I just like them and relate to them somehow," O'Connor said of the babies.

After learning more about the tough math teacher, his students have a newfound respect for O’Connor.

"I've always respected him, but now it's to an even different degree -- really to the point where I try to emulate him," said McGoldrick. "He's the epitome of a man of service."

Sources: CBS News, The Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: CBS News

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