One-On-One with John Kelly

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Pierce Sapper

John Kelly has taught at Casady for 9 years, and is a student and teacher favorite alike. Mr. Kelly never fails to entertain us with an interesting story or some historical trivia in or out of the classroom. During chapel, you can find him sitting on stage with the STUCO members, or find him at lunch discussing his day with the freshmen. This interview discusses his life before Casady and his life today.

Gracie Pitman: What were your past jobs before you came to Casady?

Mr. Kelly: I taught in Bulgaria for six years after I finished college. I moved back home and I worked at a public school in Boston. After that, I worked at a boarding school in Maine. I went on after that to work at an independent day school in New Orleans that was similar to Casady. I liked the independent day school best out of these. Boarding school was a little much because it meant working 24/7.

Gracie Pitman: Do you have any interesting stories from when you worked over seas?

Mr. Kelly: The school I worked at in Bulgaria was one of the first American schools in the country. It was an American school for Bulgarian citizens. During WW2, communists took over the school, but not before all the books that belonged to the school were hidden away in a monastery. The books had never been recovered once the school was regained control of after the war, so a couple teachers and I went to the monastery to find them. They still had them after all those years. They are on display at the school and it was awesome to see people who went to the school see their names in the library books from when they checked them out. Another thing we did at the school I really liked was called Green School, where we would go for a week up into the mountains and we’d do different classes involving nature. I don’t know if they still do it, but it was a way to build school spirit and to bond as a school. We’d play soccer games and there were teacher versus student games, it was a really fun part of the school year. The school was very competitive, we’d have 1,500 students apply and we’d only select 100.

Gracie Pitman: How were students selected?

Mr. Kelly: They’d have to take a test. It was pretty similar to the SAT. It was all in Bulgarian because some knew English, but obviously not all of them did. Also, if you got in, the tuition was very low. They had a trust fund for the school that paid for the teachers and paid for the buildings that was created after World War 2. I’m not sure exactly how it worked, they may have gotten money from Bulgarian banks, but it created a way to keep a low tuition. So yeah, I really liked teaching there, and I loved Bulgaria, but after six years I was ready to come home.

Gracie Pitman: Do you have any interesting stories from the schools in America you taught at before Casady?

Mr. Kelly: Well, the reason I came to Casady was because I was living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. I left New Orleans, put everything in my car, and drove to my sister’s house in Pennsylvania. I stayed there for six weeks, but I was lucky, I came back and my house was fine, but everything surrounding me was crazy. The school was flooded. But before that, I worked at the boarding school in Maine, and there were two things I really like about it. The first thing was a winter camping trip, and the cool thing about it was that every student and teacher had to knit their own hat to wear. So I learned how to knit hats! It was the tradition of the school. It was gratifying to be cold in the woods, but kept warm by the hat you made. The other thing that was special about the school was that in the winter we got to ski everyday. Some days we’d have class in the afternoons and ski in the mornings or vice versa. A lot of students were there to ski, but everyone got to, so it was a great experience.

Gracie Pitman: How did you like the winter in Maine?

Mr. Kelly: I don’t miss it. It lasted all the way into April.

Gracie Pitman: What is your favorite thing about Casady?

Mr. Kelly: Every year is different. When I say I’ve been here for 9 years I don’t quite believe it. I also like seeing the change in students from when they are freshmen to seniors. Those are the students I teach so it’s interesting to see how much they’ve grown. Casady is never boring, there’s always somebody to talk to.

Gracie Pitman: And what’s your least favorite thing about Casady?

Mr. Kelly: Grading freshmen essays. Once they get to senior year they’re very well developed and structured, but when they are freshman, grading takes a little more work.

Gracie Pitman: You used to travel around from different schools in different cities quite frequently. What made OKC permanent?

Mr. Kelly: I just love living here! I like living close to school and I like where I live, I can ride my bike whenever I want. I played on a men’s baseball team here. I know students say there’s nothing to do in Oklahoma City, but there’s more to do than there’s time to do it in. One of the other things I didn’t realize is I have friends on the west coast and on the east coast, so Oklahoma is a great place to travel from. I could see myself here for many years.