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Graduation 2011: Student helps students with cognitive and learning disabilities

BY DORA GROTE | DECEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Chris Kyhl's years at the University of Iowa weren't spent solely on bettering himself.

Instead, he spent the majority of his time enhancing other students' college experiences through his active involvement in an education program — an outlet for his passion for teaching.

"Kyhl is making a difference in the lives of people around him," said Nancy Langguth, a UI clinical associate professor of education. "What I admire is that he can answer any question you might ask him, but you are never monopolized. He never takes over in any way and always gives people time to gather thoughts."

The 22-year-old UI student will graduate at the end of this week with a B.A. in mathematics and a certificate in education.

Kyhl's biggest dedication as a student was serving as a resident assistant for the UI College of Education's Realizing Educational and Career Hopes program for the past two years. He helped assimilate students with cognitive and learning disabilities to college life.

He said his experiences with the program helped him develop skills that he will transfer into the classroom as a teacher.

"I've learned that I can't treat all my residents the same, and I can't teach all my students the same," he said. "Every individual needs a different way of approaching things and different things to make her or him tick. It's really taught me patience is something you can learn and is not necessarily just a virtue."

Amy Vander Busard, the program's coordinator for student life, said Kyhl always makes a special connection with the students.

"One of my favorite stories of Chris as an RA was when a returning student showed up, and [Kyhl] welcomed back the student by name," Busard said. "The mom was in tears that he knew her student by name."

Kyhl's ability to connect with students and recognize their individual ability levels is "quite novel," Langguth said.

"Whenever I would see the REACH students shepherded, Chris was often in the middle," Langguth said. "He brought a gracious and kind presence. I was so interested and curious to tap into that."

Langguth taught Kyhl's secondary education classes and said he was always thorough with his work and will "hit the ground running" in the education field.

"He has been so skilled in fostering relationships with children with special needs," Langguth said. "I think Chris will bring an awareness of ability levels and the means to differentiate his instructions so all of his [students] experience success."

While at the UI, Kyhl also played active roles in the Marching Band and Cru. He served as a tutor for students through TRiO — a program for first-generation college students.

Kyhl said speaking with his hometown math teacher sparked his interest in education.

"I always knew I wanted to do something with math, but really found that I was passionate about helping and influencing kids, which led into the RA [job], which led into teaching," Kyhl said.

He spent his two practicums at Regina Junior High School and West High School, and heis currently student-teaching at Jamesville High in Cedar Falls.

He is in the process of applying for teaching positions in the Cedar Falls area for after graduation.

His ultimate career goal is to obtain a master's degree and teach high-school math while being a varsity football and basketball coach, he said.

Busard said the traits Kyhl has developed at the UI will aid him in his future.

"He is very determined and dedicated and passionate for making a difference for the lives in the people he has worked with," Busard said. "Those qualities aren't learned in the textbook, they're learned through experiences."


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