KALISPELL, Mont. -

We have been tracking unemployment in Flathead County for the past couple months, and the unemployment rate is down for February 2014.

"Recessions hit frequently. In my life there's been two or three of them. There are people who grab the bull by the horns during a recession and say, 'This is my opportunity to do something about it,'" said Flathead High School teacher Pat Reilly.  

Reilly did just that. He was working as a field representative for a large construction company with two other guys when the recession hit the valley. He thought about it and made a life-changing decision.

"I thought about it through the years. I've had other guys take layoffs because I had kids, and if one of us had to go I figured, it's time to pay back," said Reilly.

It was time for him pursue his first dream of being a teacher. Reilly went to college in the '70s and left when a lucrative job presented and he put college on hold. Married and four children later, Reilly never came back around to college until the recession hit.

"I got my four-year degree in a little over two years. I was taking 23-26 credits a semester," said Reilly.

College was an adjustment for him.

"The speed of education was mind-boggling. How quick you had to get stuff done,” said Reilly.  

But Reilly adjusted quickly and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. Fast forward three years later and he's been making an influence on his students.

"To be able to take what I learned in the classroom, what I've learned in life and to be able to communicate with kids, to me, it's the most fun I've had in all my life," said Reilly.

Flathead Valley Community College had a record number of students in 2008-2009. Enrollment climbed 33.3 percent during the recession.