For a little more than half a century, he’s mentored youth in our community.
Mr. Bill Kelly is an agricultural teacher passionate about seeing his students succeed.
With records dating back to 1908, Kelly is the longest serving agricultural teacher in California state history.
After 52 years he’s set to retire from the profession he loves.
“It seems like yesterday I was the brand new ag teacher and you just snap your fingers and 51 years have gone by and I’m one of the oldest,” said Bill Kelly, an agriculture professor at Bakersfield College.
It isn’t the career Kelly set out for.
“I love seeing students succeed and figure out what they really want to do. Sometimes that’s the hardest part, figuring out what you really want to do,” Kelly said.
After graduating from Bakersfield High School, Kelly attended Fresno State where he planned on becoming a veterinarian until a professor mentioned teaching.
“He said have you ever thought of becoming an ag teacher? A light bulb went off in my head and right there my career changed,” Kelly said.
He started out his career teaching in the Future Farmers of America program at South High School.
Eleven years later he landed at Bakersfield College, where he’s been ever since.
“Oh I’ve loved it. I wish for all of my students, I hope and pray that they will find a career that they enjoy as much as I have enjoyed mine,” Kelly said.
His passion for his students only matched by his passion for agriculture.
“We produce 40% of America’s food and fiber on 2% of the land and that’s between the Grapevine and Redding and the two mountain ranges. It’s really less than 2% of the land because that doesn’t account for the houses and the non-agricultural land. It’s an extremely important industry to our country and of course to Bakersfield, so people need to realize that and do everything they can to help agriculture,” Kelly said.
Which is what he’s done for more than half of a century through the students he’s taught.
“Students will learn more from what we do than what we say and I think that if we’re a good example we really teach more than what’s in the book and what we do on the school farm and what we say,” Kelly said.
Kelly will retire from teaching full time on May 11,2019.
However, he won’t say goodbye to BC for good.
Kelly will continue a small role on campus to continue mentoring students.