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Meet Kayla Kolbe, this year's Outstanding Graduate
Kayla Kolbe, a 2010 graduate of Reeths-Puffer High School in Muskegon, MI, is the Outstanding Graduate of the GVSU Mathematics Department in 2015.
With a mathematics teacher as her mother, Kayla grew up always having a heart for teaching and a love for mathematics; as such, it was natural for her to pursue a degree in mathematics with a secondary teaching emphasis at Grand Valley. While the major was often difficult and sometimes stressful, Kayla says that the challenges mathematics presented to her were among her best experiences in her studies.
Prior to university-level classes, mathematics was her favorite subject because she was good at it and it made sense to her; in seeing real-life applications, connections among various strands of mathematics, and difficult problems, Kayla gained a new appreciation for the discipline and found a new sense of fulfillment. She also truly enjoyed learning how to teach mathematics through various seminars so that she will be better able to share her passion with students.
In classes like Math 210, Kayla enjoyed learning how to write proofs and more rigorously communicate mathematical ideas; at the same time, in courses such as Math 329, she observed that middle school mathematics, which may seem straightforward and simple, is actually complex and conceptually rich. She was especially fond of studying how middle schoolers think about particular problems, as well as how to use various representations of ideas to best support student learning.
Kayla’s internships at Kentwood Valleywood Middle School and Oakridge High School proved to be especially formative. These experiences not only furthered her development as a learner, but also as a future teacher. As a Structured Learning Assistance Facilitator for GVSU’s Math 110 courses and a tutor for high schoolers from the surrounding area, Kayla got considerable experience and hands-on work to help prepare her for teaching. Beyond these activities, during her time at Grand Valley she was also active in the on-campus Christian group CRU, and played intramural soccer and volleyball.
Kayla completed her last coursework in December 2014 and is currently serving as a full-time teacher at West Ottawa Public Schools where she teaches sixth grade math for struggling learners. She plans to continue her career as a math teacher, including possibly pursuing an advanced degree in mathematics education.
Away from work and school, Kayla loves spending time outdoors, especially at home in Muskegon where she enjoys the beaches and hiking trails during the summer. She stays active playing sports and engaging in other outdoor activities such as golf and hunting, and when she’s not actually moving you’ll often find her reading a good book.
Looking back on her successful time at Grand Valley, Kayla urges other mathematics students to visit their professors regularly. She shares that one of the main reasons she was able to be successful in her courses was that she wasn't afraid to ask for help when she needed it. Kayla adds that students should not get discouraged if they are finding their courses more difficult than they anticipated: if mathematics is something you are passionate about, you should stick with it even though it will take a lot of hard work.
We congratulate Kayla on all of her outstanding work and wish her the very best in her teaching career and future endeavors.