Turlock High Teacher of the Year recipient and director of the school’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program Major Kelly Cross is retiring after heading the program for 19 years. Major Cross is going out with a bang, as all three competitive Turlock teams qualified for nationals this year. They will compete against 643 other programs nationwide and over 97,000 other students.
“Teaching at Turlock High School has been an honor and privilege,” said Cross. “The teachers here rock; they care about their kids and work hard to make them better people. I would call them an elite team of educators and to be selected as Teacher of the Year is the ultimate honor. There are so many teachers of the year here that aren’t recognized for this award but deserve it. In NJROTC we work as a team and I have to say Carlos Montanez is an outstanding teaching partner.”
Cross served in the military for 22 years and started a Marines Corp Program in San Jose after active duty. He wanted to bring the lessons he learned while serving to Americans back home.
“In the Marine Corps we talk about God, Country and Corps,” he said. “God is your beliefs, Country is America and Corps is your family — this is ingrained in who I am. In teaching the Navy program I also believe in their code: Honor, Courage and Commitment. Honor yourself, your family, your friends. Have the courage to do the right thing, you know what it is. Your word is your bond, make a commitment and follow through.”
Cross has made the Turlock NJROTC program one of the most respected in the region and nation. It has been able to send 11 students on full ride scholarships to eight different universities and one to the Naval Academy. Cross said just as important as academic and competitive success is preparing his students to be pillars in their communities.
“I want them to understand that they can change the world one person at a time and they are that person,” said Cross. “My cadets are my kids; they have made me a better person and I hope that I have made them better also. The most challenging and rewarding part about teaching is helping kids discover a goal, learning without a goal is like running a race without knowing where the finish line is.”
He said teaching “a calling that I have accepted to do my part in making a better America, a better world one student at a time.” Now that this part of his life is coming to an end, he is ready to enjoy everything that life has to offer.
“When I retire, I’ll look forward to my time, playing golf, traveling (to play golf) and just enjoying life, it is short,” said Cross. “I lost my youngest son and my sister this year. These losses are a tragedy in which I need to heal. I have been blessed with a new daughter-in-law and grandson, so time with them will be a priority.”