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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Athletics professor improves student lives for over 40 years

Nate Stephenson
Kathy O’Connor concludes her self defense class on Monday, March 4 in the Physical Education Building Room 114. O’Connor teaches students techniques used in kick boxing and focused Mondays class on front kicks.

No one knows City College’s grounds better than Kathy O’Connor— the longest-tenured professor still teaching today.

O’Connor attended City College as a student and said she enjoyed it so much she came back for a job in 1974.

Not long after, O’Connor was asked to start the women’s athletic program, which included women’s volleyball and tennis.

“We didn’t have any women’s sports programs back in those days,” O’Connor said. “That was right after Title IX had been approved by the government, which gave women equal rights and all these programs.”

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City College offered her a full-time job in 1976, which she said she happily accepted.

Besides the athletic program, she also teaches health, college success for student-athletes and women’s self-defense classes.

O’Connor said that when she started working here she wanted to start a women’s self-defense class because of an incident while traveling abroad.

“I was traveling in Europe with my husband, my mother, and step-father when we got attacked in the London subway,” O’Connor said. “These guys beat the crap out of us and no one really did anything, which was frustrating because I didn’t know what to do.”

The class has been offered for 30 years, and she says she still receives emails of gratitude from women who have taken the class.

“This class has helped a lot of women,” she said. “I often get emails from women who got into a dangerous situation and used the skills we teach.”

Students and friends describe her as a tough, hard-working woman who really cares about her students and classes. Jody Nelson, a former student of O’Connor’s and now colleague, described O’Connor as one-of-a-kind.

“Students that really want to learn seek out a teacher that really wants to teach,” Nelson said. “She grows students who are unknowing, unsure and scared.

“She takes them and helps them to feel safe and to move forward.”

O’Connor has been very active in the community as Academic Senate president from 1995-1997, curriculum chair for 20 years and now sits on the Academic Senate.

O’Connor is involved with more than just City College, though. She also helps out outside of school. When the Thomas fire broke out in December of 2017, she evacuated approximately 600 animals including horses, cows, pigs and more.

Students admire her, including Charlie Perry, who is currently a student of hers.

“She is unlike every teacher,” Perry said. “Amongst all the professors I’ve had here, she really cares about each of her students and benefitting our lives with education about what we can do to truly make our lives stronger.”

“She is just tough, but that’s because she wants to make you better,” Perry continued. “I believe that is what the true meaning of a teacher is, she is amazing.”

O’Connor said she isn’t ready to give up her spot as the longest teaching professor to date.

“This is a really special place,” O’Connor said. “It is not hard to want to be here, stay involved and try to make a difference.”

Editor’s Correction:

This story has been corrected to address one error. O’Connor does not have two black belts herself but brings in two teachers with black belts. The story has been updated on April 1, 2019.

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