Humans of Parkland: Kelly Bails

Photo by Emma Gray

Photo by Emma Gray

Emma Gray


Kelly Bails, originally from Canada, is a professor of mathematics at Parkland, as well as a track and personal running coach and an avid long-distance runner herself.

Bails came to Illinois 15 years ago when she got her job at Parkland, after having gone as far from her home in Canada as she could.

“I actually grew up in Canada,” she said. “Moving was one of those ‘get as far away from my home town as possible’ situations. So I actually went to school in Florida. That’s where I met my husband. […] He was military so we spent eight years traveling the country. When he was ready to get out of the military that’s when I was like, ‘I’ve been following you for eight years; it’s your turn to follow me.’ He’s originally from Iowa so we were looking at schools back in the Midwest and Parkland just kept rising to the top.”

She says came to Parkland because of how advanced the school was in its teaching techniques.

“This school is so far ahead of, at least in math…It’s not even funny…It just seems like we’re way ahead of the curve,” she said.

She teaches the algebra sequence, which prepares students for higher levels of math and for math used in their careers.

“I am considered a developmental instructor. My primary focus is getting pre-college students ready for college or career level work—whatever they determine that they themselves need,” she said. 

She says teaching fundamental classes is something she has always loved doing. She has taught the pre-algebra class nearly every semester she has been at Parkland and says she still enjoys it.

“I’ve always been good at teaching the foundation and it just goes all the way back to when I was 16 and teaching gymnastics…I’ve always been good at building that base for the students and bringing it down to their level, whether it be gymnastics or running or taking a very basic topic and even making it more basic to a student who just doesn’t understand it,” she said.

She says she feels her job at Parkland was made for her.

“It never feels like work coming here.”

Outside of Parkland, she coaches the junior high track and field team in Mahomet.

“I coach boys sprinting events…100 [meter], 200, 400, and the relays, four-by-two, four-by-four, four-by-one, and I also coach high jump and hurdles. We have a huge team. I work with 50 kids alone. But our team, girls and boys combined, is close to 200 athletes…It’s about a third of the school,” she said. 

She also owns a business that coaches runners, which she manages with her husband.

“My husband and I also own a running and coaching business,” she said. “We coach speed and agility classes for kids, we coach beginning women’s running groups, and then we coach individual clients that we meet with year-round that all have different goals. So, one person might have a goal of doing better in a [five-kilometer run] whereas another person might have a goal of running a marathon.”

Running is not only a job for Bails, but a main hobby as well.

“My husband and I are both big runners,” she said “We just did a ‘Howl at the Moon’ eight-hour ultra in August and in that race I ran 37 miles…”

Her goal for this year is to qualify for the Boston marathon during a marathon this December.

“I’ve done 18 marathons and three ultras,” she said. “I’ve done two eight-hour ultras and a 24-hour ultra…In the 24 hour one I did 62 miles. So, I’m a little bit of an extremist.”

She got into running because her husband was a strong enthusiast of the sport.

“They always joke that wives whose husbands golf are ‘golf widows’ because their husbands are gone all weekend for six or seven hours a day…I said I was a running widow because my husband’s dad also runs and the two of them would do these races for a weekend,” she said. “I went to one of [the races] and thought, ‘This is the most boring thing ever.’”

After deciding she never wanted to watch a race again she decided instead to join the races herself.

For her, running is a time that she gets to be in nature and think through problems or chat with running friends.

“I live near Lake of the Woods and I just like being out in nature first thing in the morning. It’s peaceful. I see deer every single day. Maybe I’ll catch sight of a buck like I did yesterday…I usually see about a dozen deer, foxes, and raccoons.”

Bails also has three rescue dogs, named Tesla, Ruby, and Hayward. Two of her dogs are from the veterinary technician program at Parkland.