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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Retiring professor built strong connections over 25-year career

Michaela Wahlstroem
Kelly Lake, early childhood education professor, on Tuesday, March 7, outside the Student Service building at Santa Barbara City College East Campus. Lake is retiring as part of the Supplemental Early Retirement Program. He has worked at City College for 25 years.

Rainbow colored slinkies and neon bouncy balls surround the office of Dr. Kelly Lake, professor of early childhood education, as Lake prepares to retire after 25 years at City College.

“It’s been a great 25-year gig, but I’m excited about the future and what that might look like,” Lake said.

Being raised with four of his siblings, working with children comes natural to Lake, who is retiring as part of the Supplemental Early Retirement Program. From playing with a big group of neighborhood children during his childhood, to finding himself on the floor at family reunions playing games as an adult with the younger kids, Lake realized how much he loved it.

While receiving his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lake started as a clinician working with children. He was later asked to teach part time at a Florida community college, which inspired him to move to California and join City College full time in 1992.

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“I love the contact with students and the relationships they build,” Lake said. “I don’t have students that are one to 250 in a lecture class. I actually know each of their names and about their lives.”

Students have built a strong connection with Lake and they have a mixture of emotions about his retirement in their hopes to stay connected with him. Lake displays a basket in his office with many letters and postcards from students all over the globe.

“Early childhood education is about relationships. There’s the proof,” Lake said, while pointing to the basket overloaded with letters.

Kevin Cross, an early childhood development tutor, is one of many students that has gained influence from Lake’s advising.

“He definitely made an impact on my life,” Cross said. “He built a lasting impact and friendship between us. I just want him to know to never forget the things he’s done personally.”

In 2016, Lake delivered the 37th Annual Faculty Lecture titled “The Power of Resilience=C7”. The speech centered around the importance of providing children with the help they need when they are faced with obstacles of adolescence.

“I think what makes Kelly stand out from other professors is he is a very creative person,” department chair Julie Smith said. “He was always thinking about how to keep his students engaged.”

Lake is also the first openly gay professor to receive the Faculty Excellence Award.

“It’s generally about the work, not what I am identified as,” Lake said. “I can look at it as being part of me but I don’t think about it as all of me.”

Lake was also appointed as the first male president for the statewide Association of Early Childhood Developers. His department was known for having female leadership because females are seen to be dominant figures in the lives of children.

Besides refraining from working for six months, Lake’s retirement plans include traveling to New York with his husband in May, going on a summer cruise and volunteering with Canadian nonprofit Developing World Connections. Lake will also volunteer at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“I grew up in a culture where you give back, no matter how much you had or how little you had,” Lake said. “Even though I’m not going to be here, there’s still an opportunity to do that.”

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