New Sheriff in Town

The doors of the hallway opened, letting the cold air into the already cold hallway of a run down school building and in walked a man with a badge. It was the new school assistant administrator and leader of STEM Leadership, Bruce Kelly.

Attracted to Aviation because of its status as a lighthouse school and a project based school, Kelly is very excited to be the new administrator at Aviation High School.

“I knew I was really deeply connected to the theory of action around student learning here,” explained Kelly, “I am a math and science person, I taught math and science for 21 years. I was a project based teacher. I was actually missing students.”

Mr. Bruce Kelly has had an interest in the aviation industry since he was a young boy. His father had his private pilot’s license and took Kelly along with him when he flew.

“My dad let me take the controls of his personal plane every time we flew together,” Kelly commented, “The views and destinations were interesting.”


As he grew up, Kelly’s father wanted him to be a commercial pilot, because then he could enjoy the perks that his son would receive by being a pilot, like discounts on flights. Though Kelly enjoyed the times flying in the airplane with his father, his interests took him in a different direction than being a pilot.

“…I did not enjoy sitting so much, and thought about other options,” Kelly said.

While in high school, Kelly learned about discipline from participating in his high school’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program.  He gained respect for the tradition and sacrifice of the Air Force there, which has stayed with him to this day.

“By nature, I have always remembered being a disciplined person,” said Kelly, “AFJROTC provided a structure to reinforce a disciplined life and also assume a leadership responsibilities… AFJROTC showed me the importance of others to recognize your strengths and the power of mentoring.”

This sense of responsibility and a love of academics would eventually lead him away from the world of aviation to pursue a career in teaching high school students.

“As far back as I can remember, I liked science and mathematics. In 6th grade, I received a telescope and became very animated with the chance to observe and explore our solar system,” Kelly explained, “The inquiry side of science and the precision of mathematics has always been personally appealing.”

He spent twenty-one years teaching high school students a variety of STEM classes, science and math specifically, in three different Washington state school districts.

“Teaching science and mathematics for 21 years to help students understand and be successful was very much a rewarding time,” Kelly explained.

From teaching, Kelly became a district level administrator for the Kent School District overseeing programs such as the K-12 science program and the Health/Fitness program. Prior to serving in Kent he was involved in the Educational Service District in Olympia, where he first heard about Aviation High School.

“Reba, about four or five years ago, brought down a handful of Aviation students to make a presentation…it was like a STEM summit,” Kelly said, “The students were just presenting culminating projects and I just thought ‘Now that…that is pretty amazing.’”

Four to five years later, Kelly found a job opening at Aviation High School – the position that Scott McComb vacated just last year to return to teaching at Aviation High School as the freshman Physical Science teacher and the main coach for Science Olympiad.

“I thought I would like to explore that, I really would,” Kelly said, “And so I emailed Ms. Gilman… ‘I saw the posting, I would love to come over, interview some students, talk to some staff members.  Could you arrange a tour for me?’ And she did.”

Kelly hopes to end his career at Aviation High School, he plans on staying for a long time compared to other administrators AHS have had in the past. Aviation High School has had six school administrators since the start of the school in 2004.  All of the old administrators only stayed a year or two before continuing their careers.

“This year marks my 27th year in education and I started thinking about where I would like to end my professional career.” Kelly explained. “It was a risk to leave the successful initiatives with my former school district and join Aviation High School.  However, I believe I made the right move and AHS is where I want to finish my professional career.”

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