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Hear him Kaul: teaching beyond blackboards

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Among the monotonous halls that thousands of students shove through daily, some students stay nestled in a photo covered room, eating, socializing, or doing homework. The room always has someone in it, not because of the relaxing recliners or the ever-present snacks, but because social studies teacher of 32 years, Mike Kaul, has created a welcoming environment and close personal connection with countless students, where they learn more than just social studies.

Kaul has photos of himself with both current and past students pinned around his room, gifts from them piled on bookshelves and always has someone in the collaborative spaces next to his classroom, waiting for a chance to vent to him or just catch a break, sometimes long after the school day is over, or before the school day even begins. On multiple occasions he has even found kids on his front porch, looking for help with both school and personal problems.

More than an educator

“He’s never alone. Even if he’s walking in the hallway students see him and they change the directions to follow wherever he’s going. He’s funny and he’s relatable and he’s sometimes a little bit crude, but it’s crude in the way that life is crude,” senior Annabel Gregg said.

He’s never alone. Even if he’s walking in the hallway students see him and they change the directions to follow wherever he’s going. He’s funny and he’s relatable and he’s sometimes a little bit crude, but it’s crude in the way that life is crude.”

— Annabel Gregg

Kaul teaches AP Psychology and U.S. History, and connects his experience as a drug abuse counselor and a consultant at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to relate to his AP Psychology class. He is widely known to be a fun teacher with sarcastic humor, but to many students, he is more than just a teacher.

“I think he’s probably going to be the person from a high school that I miss the most. He was a great educator, and I really liked AP Psychology, but who he is as a person is something that I know I’m going to want to be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I know I’ll come back here or I know I’ll send him emails and check in because he’s not just a teacher to me. He really does feel like this second dad. You can tell him anything,” Gregg said.

Beyond the classroom

Senior Bryce Welsch was nominated for Homecoming King in the fall, and took the plastic crown home, but not before Welsch lassoed Kaul to the song Big Green Tractor by Jason Aldean, while in a big cardboard green tractor (which was later taped onto Kaul’s podium). Welsch has built his relationship with Kaul over two years. He had two classes with him in his junior year, AP Psychology and U.S. History. In those years, Welsch has learned plenty from Kaul, not only in social studies, but beyond the classroom.

“I remember last year one of the things that he talked about was that people try to control things that they can’t control. I think that’s really help me apply it to real life. If you’re going to try to do that you’re going to create too much stress in your life. Sometimes things aren’t going to be the way you want them to be and you just gotta let them happen,” Welsch said.

With such a crowded side room, Kaul occasionally gets frustrated, but quickly recognizes it and takes a moment to realize his privilege in being the one many students turn to.

Personal acceptance

“I care about who you are and I care about you as a person and yeah, I’m here to do my very best job to teach psych or social studies or whatever curriculum…but that’s just a small piece of it. I wish I had all kinds of time to just get know what’s going on in your life. What’s your family, what are your interests,” Kaul said. “Your story is really important to me.”

Kaul fondly recalls many stories of past students, many of which begin with a student who is struggling in both school and at home, but end in them being graduated, living their happiest lives. And, while it brings him much joy seeing these students flourish, he does not take credit for them or their successes.

“I consider myself somebody who accepts people for where they’re at. I try as hard as I can not to be judgmental. I try not to be prejudicial and biased and all that kind of stuff, but I’m a human and I screw up a lot, but I try to just accept people wherever they’re at. I try to treat them with the respect that they deserve. I learned this really early on, I never take credit for people’s successes. You know, what you’ve done here is because the result of you,” Kaul said. “I also don’t take credit for your failures. I’m not the cause for you to struggle in my class. So I try to be encouraging and supportive, but I don’t take on your stuff. That’s yours.”

Gregg and Welsch, as well as dozens of other students, look up to Kaul and from him have learned countless lessons about both the Civil War, the myelin sheath and life. He will continue to be a role model for students, though some seniors who he has connected with most will be leaving to college soon. Fortunately for them, they found their safe spaces in high school, as Kaul’s room serves as a home for students who sometimes feel they have nowhere to turn.

“I just really appreciate the fact that it kind of feels like home and everything there is to share with others. I think that’s a great thing to have. He just is always sharing,” Gregg said. “He’s real, and I think that people really appreciate that.”

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About the Writer
Mira LaNasa, Print Editor-In-Chief

Mira LaNasa is a senior and a Print Editor-in-Chief of the Pony Express who manages the photography department. She was born in South Korea and now lives...


12 Responses to “Hear him Kaul: teaching beyond blackboards”

  1. Gabrielle Danielson on April 11th, 2018 12:29 pm

    I am so glad this story was written. I love the way the story flows and tells so much about who Mr Kaul is.

  2. Alyssa Bump on April 13th, 2018 8:30 am

    Mr. Kaul is one of my favorite teachers, so this article is very relatable. This written very well and is layout well.

  3. Mark O’Shea on April 13th, 2018 5:16 pm

    The article truly shows who Mr. Kaul is, gives a great description and tries to make it as life like as possible. I like how it continues the theme of “beyond the blackboard” throughout the article.

  4. Hunter Hippel on April 22nd, 2018 1:26 pm

    This was a really good look into Mr. Kaul is. We found out a lot anecdotes, and were able to hear him speak very passionately. Good interviewing. I had no idea of all the other things he did. Nice job Mira.

  5. Kaitlyn Kirby on April 22nd, 2018 2:09 pm

    I really liked how the story was organized. It was very easy to follow and was broken up very nicely. The quotes were very strong and were full of information. The story was very well written and very informational.

  6. James Stahl on April 22nd, 2018 5:58 pm

    The quotes in this story were outstanding and really showed who Mr. Kaul is as a person. I feel like most, if not everyone, knows who he is and his reputation is confirmed through this article.

  7. Chloe Squires on April 22nd, 2018 7:32 pm

    I love this article. Not only because Mr. Kaul is my favorite teacher, but also because of the detail that it gave. I learned a lot about him!

  8. Luke Dickinson on April 22nd, 2018 11:02 pm

    I think this article beautifully captures the essence of what Mr Kaul stands for and really helps you understand his message. Good job!!!!!!

  9. Emma Polucha on April 23rd, 2018 7:24 am

    I love this story!!! The connection he has with his students is shown so much and they clearly mean a lot to him. It makes me feel as if I know him as one of his students might

  10. Noah Schoolman on April 23rd, 2018 9:24 pm

    I really liked this article and how you told lots of different stories and examples of how Mr Kaul has made an impact on student’s lives. I think you did a really good job of informing about what he does for students.

  11. Mackenzie Motz on April 23rd, 2018 10:47 pm

    I love this story!! The quotes are so good and serve such great purposes in the flow of the article! I am a huge fan of Mr. Kaul as well and I feel like this article really did him justice in describing how amazing he truely is! Very entertaining read!

  12. Ike Gunderson on April 24th, 2018 7:48 am

    Mr Kaul is one of my favorite teachers and this article did a very good job of describing him as a teacher and a person. Throughout the whole article I kept thinking “yep that’s Mr Kaul”.

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Hear him Kaul: teaching beyond blackboards