March 2006
Kathy O'Connor, M.S.

Associate professor of Health and Physical Education
Began teaching at SBCC in 1974
Began teaching career in 1968 (at Laguna Blanca)

Quotations from nomination(s):
"Kathy's commitment to students is evident in her personal interactions with students as well as the many campus programs she has initiated and/or supported. She has high expectations of students, but is willing to go out of her way to provide assistance and encouragement. As a colleague on campus, Kathy has a record of extraordinary service. Kathy also is actively involved in state and national organizations… Within the community, Kathy is quick to offer her assistance and expertise whenever needed."

Kathy's interview comments:
Regarding my educational background, I grew up in Montecito. I went to Montecito Union Elementary School and to Carpinteria High School. I attended SBCC for two years. I had my best education at City College. I then attended UCSB for two years and obtained a BA in physical education. A few years later I went to Cal Poly and earned my Masters there in Physical Education.

I was always athletic, but in those days women didn't have much of an opportunity to participate in sports. I competed in track and played basketball and volleyball. I decided when I was in the ninth grade that I wanted to be a P.E. teacher. I was always very motivated. I saved enough money to buy my own horse by the time I was 10. At that point I was going to be a vet, because I loved animals. But when my horse died after a long illness four years later, the experience was so painful that I knew I wouldn't be able to pursue a career in which watching animals in pain and dying was part of the job. I'd always enjoyed physical education, so I decided what I was going to be and I never wavered from that decision.

My favorite place:
Besides Santa Barbara, because I love Santa Barbara and my house and my property, but other than that...Paris, Rock Creek in the Sierras, Wyoming (where I went on two cattle drives) and Hawaii.

My motto is:
"If it's not broken, break it. Don't settle for doing the same old thing. Try new things...find a better way to do something."

The person I'd most like to meet:
Benjamin Franklin. He's my hero. He was innovative, smart and a diplomat. He was always finding a better way to solve problems.
Even though it may sound strange, I discuss Ben Franklin in my health classes when we talk about values.

Teaching tips:
I'm gearing up to address the subject of increasing student success in our division meeting. In the athletic department, because we deal with our students in a very intense way, we have identified two major issues that determine student success. The first is motivation. The students have to have something in their lives that they love to do. Athletics provides that. For our students, a passion for athletics can motivate them to succeed in their other classes. Secondly, students have to learn to seek help. I tell parents and students who I meet that there is no problem that a student may have that can't be addressed at SBCC. But the students must give themselves permission to seek help.

Regarding a great teacher:
One teacher that really changed my life was my history teacher in high school, Mr. Nicholas. In high school, I was very shy and I never spoke up in class. Mr. Nicholas just kept making statements in class and provoking me until I finally had to respond. He instantly broke out in a big grin and said, "I wondered what it would take to get you to speak up." He gave me permission to speak and ever since that point I was more comfortable speaking up in class.

What I'm reading:
Harry Potter. I like mysteries, a biography of Benjamin Franklin and The Secret Life of Bees.

Biggest professional challenge:
Serving as Academic Senate President (from 1995-1997). I learned so much in that position and I came to fully appreciate the inner workings of SBCC. I loved working with everybody. It was scary, demanding and exciting. That year we started online classes and I had the opportunity to meet the Clintons and serve on a panel with Hillary.

What I love to do:
I love to ride horses and compete in dressage. I've bred two horses to compete in dressage, but haven't yet had the time to commit to that.

What I love about my job:
I like the challenge of meeting a new group of students every semester. I like serving on committees and problem solving with my colleagues. I love the opportunities that an educational career provides. I love brainstorming with my students, and our staff, I learn something new each day.

My idea of perfect happiness:
Healthy and on horseback.

Something people may not know about me:
I'm an avid collector of stuffed animals. My mother and I shared a passion for stuffed animals and we could never resist adding one more to the collection. My mother's belief that you have to treat people, animal and possessions, even stuffed animals, with care and respect had a profound effect on me and it's a value that continues to resonate in my life.