Rachel Kellerman sits in front of her school office “totem,” a corkboard that she tacks valuable pictures, quotes and objects on.
Rachel Kellerman lives for stories.
“I like to put myself in a situation where I can tell stories, experience them and hear other people’s,” she says. “That’s what I think makes life interesting and fun.”
To the six-year Palo Alto High School librarian, stories come in more forms than just books and writing. They can be experiences like traveling to the London Olympics and exploring different career paths, or what she personally values: searching for and finding a personal “space” where you feel at peace.
Across a large bulletin board in her office — what she calls her totem — hang special items that pinpoint memories and lessons she values, from a bright Giants rally towel to a fortune cookie slip her daughter recently sent. Many of the items have traveled with her over the years and symbolize the kind of person she is today.
Kellerman’s love for stories began in high school. She attended Pacific Palisades High, or “Pali,” which was a large and progressive Los Angeles charter school with little school spirit.
“It was the 70s,” she says. “Kind of counter-culturey and three blocks from the beach. We were very into the outdoors and hanging out with friends.”
There, Kellerman met the English teacher Rose Gilbert, currently the oldest teacher in Los Angeles at 92 years old, who sparked Kellerman’s lasting love of reading and writing.
“She made me believe I was capable of reading challenging books and making comparisons,” Kellerman says. “She never ever made me feel like I couldn’t do something.”
Kellerman went on to major in psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she acquired people skills that came in handy as a TV commercial producer at a San Francisco ad agency.
“I really had to used my psychology while working in advertising,” she says. “There were a lot of really strange and creative people that I worked with who had very different personalities.”
It was also in the world of advertising and media that Kellerman discovered that she loved being creative and experimenting with technology.
But after five years, Kellerman realized that the job — selling frozen food and other items — wasn’t very fulfilling.
“Even though I loved my job, I realized it didn’t do a lot for the soul,” she says. “And once I had kids, I realized it wasn’t particularly the kind of thing I wanted to do. There’s a life balance.”
Seeking more, Kellerman went down a new path: education. Following her parents, who were also educators, she went on to earn a masters degree at University of California at Berkeley and a degree in library science at San Jose State University. Kellerman became a librarian at several Palo Alto schools before moving to London for four years.
To her, living abroad was just the right thing. Kellerman finds travelling to be one of the healthiest and most eye-opening things someone can do.
“I think we live in a really insulated world,” she says. “How do you really get to know what the world is like without going out yourself and talking to people?”
With her daughter currently living in Boston and her son studying in New York, Kellerman travels frequently with her husband to the East Coast. Other than trips within the country, Kellerman has traveled to Switzerland for a 10-day hiking trip and, more recently, to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
To Kellerman, who grew up going to many UCLA sporting events and is a lifelong sports fan, this trip was true “sports gluttony.” She says her love for sports comes from seeing and knowing its stories.
“I just think that there’s something about sports and the commitment that you make as a team member and the stories that are told every night on the field that really appeal to me,” she says.
Other than sports, Kellerman has a lasting appreciation of archiving.
While looking to the future, she hopes to get an official archiving certificate, which will enable her to take charge of the collection in the back of the library, scan its information and make it available online. In doing so, she says she’ll be combining all her library, teaching and media skills.
“The whole digital explosion and archiving is a field of great interest to me because of the stories we can tell of the past that relate to now,” she says. “I like the idea of exposing that because it’s kind of like being an archaeologist of the past.”
For now, Kellerman simply loves working at Paly, a job she considers active, physically demanding, and very suitable for someone like her. Other than getting to dip into multiple subjects for short lessons, she loves that she can talk to and connect with kids and teachers around campus and feel like she’s making an impact.
“And there are stories, the stories that kids tell me about their lives everyday,” Kellerman says. “It’s really wonderful.”