Eleven Years after Earning Her Veterinary Technology Degree, Kelly Blue Returns to Teach at Carrington
When Kelly Blue graduated from Carrington College with her Associate of Science degree in Veterinary Technology back in 2010, it never occurred to her that she’d return to the Citrus Heights campus as an instructor 11 years later.
“Life can be unpredictable,” says Kelly, who joined the Carrington faculty in June and began teaching two classes—Surgical Assisting and Anesthesia—in September. “As much as I love caring for animals, I’m finding that teaching others how to provide that care can be just as fulfilling. And since I have three cats and two dogs at home, I’m still always around animals.”
We talked with Kelly about what it’s like to return to the classroom, how she thinks her experience as a former Carrington student makes her a more empathetic teacher, and the qualities she believes every Registered Veterinary Technician needs to succeed.
What prompted you to pursue a teaching position at Carrington?
When I was working as a Registered Veterinary Technician, I loved my job so much and was so enthusiastic that I would talk about my work with anyone who would listen. I also always enjoyed teaching and mentoring the student externs who worked in our vet clinic. A former coworker of mine apparently remembered that about me, because after she started working at Carrington, she sent me a message telling me that a teaching position had opened. She encouraged me to apply. I thought about it and decided to go for it. When I was offered the position, I was thrilled. Returning to Carrington felt like a full-circle moment.
What do you remember most about your experience as a student at Carrington?
I was 27 when I enrolled at Carrington. Before that, going to college never seemed like an option. My mom was a single parent raising five kids, so just keeping everyone clothed and fed was a struggle. When I graduated high school, I was much more focused on getting a job than thinking about a career. I knew what I didn’t want—to marry young, have kids, and feel stuck—but I didn’t know what I did want. I always loved animals, so my first job was as a veterinary assistant. But I also worked at a pizza place, at a grocery store, and doing customer service. I never really had a plan, and I didn’t feel like I was using my brain or building a future.
One day my mom called me out of the blue and asked me why I didn’t back go to school. To be honest, there was a time when I wasn’t sure I was worth it—or whether I could succeed. But when she offered to help me, I felt more ready.
I’ll never forget how much I grew as a person while attending Carrington. I learned to trust myself and how to apply myself, and I developed valuable life skills like time management. I grew so much while doing my program.
How do you think your experience as a former Carrington student impacts how you teach and relate to your students?
I know what it feels like to want more but to question whether the investment of time, effort, energy and money will pay off. For many students, enrolling in a college program is a real stretch and a big leap of faith. I get it because I’ve been there. And if you’re raising a family, working, and going to school like many of our students do, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. But I also know from experience that it can be done—and that the short-term challenges are worth the long-term gains.
I also think my time here as a student makes me more understanding as an instructor, especially when I’m working with older students. When I enrolled at Carrington, I felt old—and I was only 27! I know that sounds crazy, but some of my classmates were coming right out of high school. I soon realized that what I’d already learned about life—and about myself—gave me a different perspective and advantage that the younger students didn’t have yet. That’s something I’ll never hesitate to remind my older students. At 40, I’m so impressed when I see students my age or older returning to school to pursue a new career. It’s only too late if you think it is—and it isn’t!
What do you like most about teaching?
I love sharing my knowledge and watching students develop and grow. Teaching is also providing me a second chance to do something I love. I was diagnosed with heart disease right around the time I graduated. At 29, I had to have a pacemaker and heart defibrillator implanted. I then worked in Sacramento as a veterinary assistant and registered veterinary technician for six and a half years, but was diagnosed with more heart issues and had to quit working. It took two years to get it under control. It was a rough time for my husband and me. I knew I would have to make big changes in my life, but I never imagined that I’d go from a veterinary emergency room to a classroom. But here I am—healthy and happy to be sharing my knowledge and experience with students.
Are there any common traits you notice among students who excel in the program—and later on the job?
First of all, you really have to love animals. It’s also helpful to be able to communicate well with people because every animal arrives at the vet with a person! I’ve always believed the best veterinary technicians have patience and initiative. They also have an ability to prioritize, multi-task and manage time well. You need to be a team player and be able to follow, but not be afraid to have your own voice and speak up whenever you believe it’s necessary. Lives are in your hands. I also think a curious mind is essential because veterinary practices and technology are changing all the time.
How did it feel to return to the classroom—and to Carrington—after 11 years?
It’s very surreal. Have you ever gone back to visit a home you grew up in? It feels the same, but somehow different. It feels so much smaller. I sometimes have flashbacks thinking about conversations I had or people I met here. It’s very nostalgic. It might sound corny, but it really feels I’ve come home.
Carrington’s Veterinary Technology program is offered at six California campuses: Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro and Stockton.