• Laura Kuykendall at Charter College

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Mrs. K – Bringing a Lifetime of Experience into Every Classroom

Laura Kuykendall is on a mission. She wants to turn learners into patient care providers who excel at what they do. She wants her students to love their careers as much as she loves hers and for them to make her—and themselves—proud.

And it’s working.

“I’ve gone to doctor’s appointments and seen my former students,” says Mrs. K. “They’re at the doctor’s office. It’s a really proud feeling to know that I was part of that, of putting such capable people out there.”

 

Lots of Experience and a Great Attitude

Mrs. K is an instructor at Charter College’s Pasco campus and has been at the school for almost a decade now. She teaches several different courses across programs but has more than 20 years’ experience in the medical field. She says it’s her passion to teach that comes across in the classroom. Not only do students come and learn, but they stay! She has some of the best retention rates in the system, and she’s always looking to improve.

According to Mrs. K, instructors are often pivotal to student success. She says it’s up to teachers to pay attention to student progress from day one. An early check-in, in the second or third week of classes, can help prevent a student from sliding. Teachers need to “make sure students are staying ahead of the game. If students are not posting discussions, personally walk up to them and sit next to them and talk to them, know their names so you can make it personal.” Mrs. K. notes that “most students decide whether to continue enrollment within the first 6-8 class days. What happens on the first day of class sets the learning climate for the entire 7-10 months and may help a student decide whether to stay or flee.”

Retention Rates

Last year, Mrs. K. saw retention rates from 84 percent in Dental Assisting to 81 percent in HVAC. She says it’s because she cares more about the individual student than any one program. A student who has made the big decision to come back to school for career training doesn’t always know exactly what they want to do. They know they want change. They know that they’re “tired of flipping burgers, that they can and want to be more. Sometimes they tell me, ‘I’ve been working in food service for 11 years, but this is not where I see my life,’ or that the part-time job they have isn’t enough, or sometimes it’s mom making them come. What I do is talk to them one-on-one and ask them ‘why did you pick this field?’ We get to know each other. We connect.” Sometimes students stay in the program they start and sometimes they switch out. But once they’ve made the good choice to improve their lives, Mrs. K. does what she can to support them and convince them to stay on the right path.

For the students who have classes with Mrs. K., the connection also seems to stick. Even years after her students have graduated, she hears from them. Sometimes they reach out with good news about a new job. Other times, it’s a request: “can I swing by and brush up on a few things?” “My answer is ‘absolutely!’”

As to why Mrs. K. can make such an impact in the lives of her students, she thinks it’s because she meets them wherever they happen to be. She also pulls from her own life and experiences to offer real world examples, not only about what they learn, but also about how they might feel. One of nine kids, Mrs. K. was the only one who made it to college. Many Charter College students are also the first in their families to pursue higher education. And she knows what it’s like to feel like the new kid in class; she moved 13 times growing up because her dad was in construction. But she also takes time to just ask how they’re doing.

“It might be something as simple as saying, ‘I noticed you were late today. Why?’ Then they let me know that they hit traffic and I tell them an alternate route. Or maybe it’s a childcare issue, and I can point them in the direction of a daycare,” says Mrs. K. And when it comes to knowledge, Mrs. K. can pull from the many jobs she’s had throughout her long career. She’s worked as a doctor’s assistant, a certified nurse assistant, medical receptionist, and more, in hospitals, clinics, and offices. She knows firsthand how to perform all the tasks her students will be required to do in the classroom and on the job. She also can give scenarios from her experience as mini case studies on what could happen and how to handle it. She’s even willing to offer her mistakes as examples because she knows that no one’s perfect. It’s what you do after a mistake that makes all the difference. Will it set you back? Or will it be a great learning opportunity?

 

If you’re ready for lots of learning opportunities and want instructors who care about your success almost as much as you do, take a look at all the programs offered at Charter College. And if you’re near the Pasco campus, come say hi to Mrs. K.!