Beau Kaelin: Bullitt County Teacher of the Year

Room 38 of Bullitt Central High School tells a story. The scene is set by the pictures, letters and movie posters that cover the walls and even in some spots the ceiling of this classroom. The tale’s lead character is Beau Kaelin, who was named Teacher of the Year in the county this spring and is now in the running for Kentucky Teacher of the Year. The story is that of an eccentric science teacher that also moonlights as the promotions manager at Baxter Avenue Theater.

“I was surprised to win at my school, so to win at the county level left me more than surprised,” recounted Kaelin, the 33-year-old who holds a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in education from the University of Louisville.

“He’s dynamic, engaging and he’s on the cutting edge of teaching – he’s a true asset,” explains Bullitt Central High School Principal Christy Coulter. “The award is great recognition for Beau personally, and it’s great for our school. The kids know that he’s special, and it gives us something to reward and recognize. Just another feather in our cap.”

Kaelin doesn’t claim to do it by himself though. He’s recently become part of a PLC (Professional Learning Community), a new trend in education where teams of teachers collaborate to develop activities for their students. The Bullitt Central Biology PLC is made up of Kaelin, his former student teacher Vincent Castellano, Roy Taylor and Ed Farrar who is in his forty-third year of teaching.

When asked what it was that attracted him to teaching in the first place, Kaelin explained, “I honestly can’t recall what my motivation was, though I’m sure it was the doe-eyed notion of changing the life of every student that sparked the interest in me. It’s the little moments of serendipity that make teaching worthwhile for me, like hearing the recent valedictorian admit in his graduation speech that he went from disliking biology to choosing a career in it because of me, or seeing a parent tear up out of happiness because every day her son comes home from school and talks about your class instead of suicide. These moments are few and far between, and you can be at the game for a few years before one ever hits you, but when one does, it resonates and keeps you going.”

Along with teaching biology to the youth of Bullitt County and planning the midnight movie series at Baxter Avenue Theatres, Kaelin has written, directed, edited and sometimes acted in a feature-length film each summer for the last six years. “I love no-budget filmmaking for many of the same reasons that I do teaching. To some the two seem like drastically different worlds, but to me they share one major thing in common – they provide a wonderful opportunity to reveal the hidden talents of others. In class, I may take pride in seeing a student earn a C on an exam when he’s never earned a passing grade in any previous course. On the sets of my films, I can smile with pleasure at watching a friend transform from a line cook or assembly line worker to a hero within the context of a script,” Kaelin concluded.

If none of that were enough, Kaelin just returned from his second five-week trip to China. “It’s difficult to explain the full impact such a trip has. I started in Beijing and over the course of the next few weeks I drifted around, mostly by myself, by train, boat or even hitchhiking only to end up in Tibet in the shadow of Mount Everest during one of the few periods where its peak wasn’t obscured by clouds.”

Since the start of this story, Kaelin managed another surprise. While in China he captured scenes reminiscent of Ansel Adams in order to compile them into his seventh film, due out Spring 2014. “The feeling I hope to instill in everyone who sees ‘Kora’ is awe – the same emotion I experienced when I first journeyed to China in 2011,” Kaelin said. “‘Kora’ is a term which  in Tibetan Buddhism equates to a holy pilgrimage. This theme is the thread that will weave together the tapestry of music and image that will be the film. Scored by William Bryan Ragland, I hope to present something very different to fans of my movies than I’ve presented before – sheer cinematic hypnosis.”

Tibetan locals admiring Beau Kaelin's tattoos.

Tibetan locals admiring Beau Kaelin’s tattoos.

In the interest of full disclosure this might be time your writer lets readers know that he’s been friends with Kaelin for five years and will be seen in his next film, “The Fated Assemblage of Dr. Malvagio,” his take on a classic Italian horror film due to be released this fall.

“Overall I feel honored,” Kaelin said. “It means a lot to have your community tell you that you’re doing something right and that they appreciate your efforts.”

So whether it’s his latest Halloween prank (featuring Hollywood-worthy special effects), creating a metal band for a one-time concert, filming a movie in three weeks, secretly filming another in five, or just hearing stories about what an amazing teacher he is from his past students or colleagues, Beau Kaelin never ceases to amaze.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune

China and Tibet Photos Provided