Kelly O’Keefe

Kelly is a passionate English teacher at Rufus King High School. Watch as she explains the privilege she feels to teach children, and the thrill she gets in showing them there are no limits to their potential.

If you’re lucky, you’ve had one teacher in your life as dedicated, passionate and supportive as Kelly O’Keefe. But Kelly sees it from the opposite perspective: She’s the lucky one.

Celebrating her 20th year teaching English at Rufus King High School, she gets emotional when talking about what her students mean to her. “I think how staggeringly honored I am, to get to sit with someone, chart a course, or dream a big dream,” she says.

Like many beloved teachers, Kelly can point to the ones who inspired her to take the leap herself. She mentions a high school band teacher whose enthusiasm was contagious. As she recalls, “he oozed love for what he was talking about. He was crazy about it. And you could feel it.”

She continues, “For me, teaching is this revolutionary relationship between the teacher and the learner. It’s about the possibility that happens every single time that classroom opens and a kid sits down. That’s priceless.”

“Limitlessness” is a word she uses to explain what a great teacher can uncover in a student. It’s the idea of proving the doubters wrong – and proving to yourself that there are no limits to what you can be when someone gives you a chance.

Kelly has strong feelings about the value of a great education and how it contributes to our way of life. “I am 100% convinced that the future of a democracy is completely entwined with the future of our schools,” she says. “If we are going to have young people who think critically, and are invested in their communities, then the schools have to thrive. They have to be fully supported.”

Not surprisingly, she enthusiastically endorses teaching for those who might be considering it as a career. As she explains, “I can’t imagine a better way to spend your day. It’s always exciting, it’s always demanding. Education is changing, and we need people who are really fresh and willing.”

Kelly’s passion spills over as she wraps up her feelings on why teaching is so important: “When we take a stand for teachers, we take a stand for young people. And I would shout that from the rooftops. They do deserve the best teachers we can put in front of them.”

Her lucky students at Rufus King have one of the best there is.