Kathy Kyle is one of the most upbeat, enthusiastic, and genuinely amicable people you’ll ever meet. Mrs. Kyle has been working at the Boys and Girls Club of the Long Beach Peninsula as a program specialist since 2015.
In addition to working at the Boys and Girls Club every day, Mrs. Kyle substitute teaches across Ocean Beach School District. Whenever there’s a need for a teacher in elementary, middle, or high school, Mrs. Kyle is always ready to step up to the plate.
She’s taught all the way from kindergarten through twelfth grade, in anything from English to shop class, making her the school district’s bubbly swiss army knife. You can always hear Mrs. Kyle coming, because she carries a small box cart of supplies that squeaks along faithfully at her heels, announcing her arrival.
She has some serious style, too, often dressed in a brightly colored homemade scarf and wacky socks that go over her pants with her hair in long braided pigtails. I sat down with her to find out just where all her energy comes from, how she developed her particular sense of fashion, and why she is so dedicated to youth services.
KK: Club for me is all about socialization, being creative, and allowing open freedom for the kids to engage with whatever they want to do. We have tons of toys, games, puzzles, and art supplies. Sometimes we have more structured activities like when I read to them, but most of the time the kids have the freedom to decide what they want to do. Whatever kind of project or activity they think of, I’ll help them do it, the one rule is we can’t play rough in here. I tell them, “Don’t crash the toy cars, I don’t have insurance.”
You’ve taught almost every subject and every grade. Do you have a particular favorite?
The kindergarteners. They’re so honest and sharp about everything, they just know what’s going on. They’ll confront you on anything. Earlier this week, I had this little boy come up to me and say,
“You killed all our rolly pollys, they’re all dead! You didn’t feed ‘em!”
“Well, I didn’t know I had to feed ‘em!”
“Well you had to.”
“What was I supposed to feed ‘em?”
“Dead leaves. And you didn’t. And now they’re dead.”
So the kids then had to report to the class that all the rolly pollys were dead and how it’s my fault. [Lets out a hearty laugh.] They’re so sweet.
You’ve been known to craft some incredible garments for yourself, such as a homemade Seahawks themed hat and a polka-dot scarf with pockets, where do you find the inspiration for such unique projects?
Well, yeah. Why go buy something? Where’s the fun in that? [Puts her hands out in disbelief like, why would anyone ever want to buy clothing?] I make all of my own costumes too, I love art and working on projects, I’ve always loved creating stuff with my hands. I make props, costumes, and quilts mostly.
What do you always have to have with you and why did you decide that a squeaky box cart was the best option for carrying your things?
Well, it’s my office! Because when I go to substitute teach, they don’t have the supplies in the classrooms and the desks are always locked, so I just started bringing my own stuff. Pens, binders, super glue, ya know, essential stuff.
I’ll see kids using a pair of scissors and ask, “Where did you get those? You took them from the cart? That’s my office! Don’t steal things out of my office!”
So yeah, it’s a bit of a squeaky office. I wonder if WD 40 would make it better. But then how would people know when I’m nearby?
How did you decide that you wanted to work with kids? What is it you enjoy most about working with youth?
I wanted a fun job, and I love kids and toys, they really go together. People wonder why I love doing it, like working with kids is such a drag or something, and then they see where I work and look around at my set up and see hoola hoops and drums and all this fun stuff and they go, "Hmm, okay. I get it."
More than anything, I love to see families playing together having a good time. Like c’mon, lighten up, guys. Enjoy your life, enjoy your kids. We’re not a community of just kindergarteners or 4th graders or high schoolers or old folks. We’re a community of all ages. Old and young, we’re meant to be together, not separated. That’s what I believe in, working with the community and bringing people together of all ages.