by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at Kings River Life Magazine, we realize how important teachers and other school employees are to the lives of our children and the future of our communities as they shape the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, most of the best of them work long hours with little recognition or thanks. Our goal here is to take a moment to thank as many of these people as we can — those who go above and beyond and exceed expectations.
Human Anatomy, Physiology and Sports Medicine teacher Kirby Kauk has been teaching at Reedley High School for 23 years. He also served as an Athletic Trainer at RHS until 2005. Montana born, Kirby attended Fresno State where he received his Masters, graduating in 1989. “I was originally hired as the Athletic Trainer for RHS in 1986 while I attended graduate school at Fresno State.”
The athletic trainer at Reedley College at the time, Russ Richardson, was attempting to improve the healthcare provided to local athletes by recruiting certified athletic trainers who would be willing to establish sports medicine programs at the schools. “He worked closely with then principal Irvin Isaak to create a position for me at RHS,” continued Kirby.
Kirby’s original plan was to get his Masters degree at Fresno State and then move on to a university sports medicine program or professional sports team, with no intention of becoming a high school teacher. “However, I enjoyed the high school setting so much that plans changed and my wife Kathi and I decided that Reedley was the place for us and our young family.”
“Kirby developed the Sports Medicine Program at RHS years ago,” said Ron Hudson, KCUSD Deputy Superintendent. “He did it with a combination of high expectations and love of his students. Kirby was born to teach. He is uniquely equipped to communicate with today’s students. Kirby is one of the most valuable assets in Kings Canyon Unified School District.”
Since 1986, Kirby has also worked periodically at Reedley College as an athletic trainer, assisting with their Sports Medicine Program, as well as occasionally teaching the Sports Injuries class. Michael White, Vice President Student Services at Reedley College and former head coach of the RC football team, has known Kirby for many years. “I stood on the sideline of many of the RHS games where he was working. He was a bit of a legend in the athletic training world because of where the RHS program was in relation to other area high schools. He was in the lead in terms of curriculum rigor and student engagement.”
What Kirby likes best about his job is motivating students who are not excited about learning. “Fortunately, I am blessed to work with exceptional kids who want to learn and, for the most part, look forward to coming into my classroom. I look forward to coming to work every day. The interaction I have with the students and my colleagues is very rewarding. There’s never a dull moment.”“I had him for Human Anatomy my junior year,” said former RHS student Stacie Hall. “Mr. Kauk kept things interesting and could always explain something you didn’t understand, and what’s more he made something as boring as learning the bones in the human body fun.”
“Mr. Kauk makes his classes fun and easy to learn,” agreed RHS senior Aimee Lewis. “Knowing that I have his class at the end of school helps me get through the day. He is definitely, in my opinion, one of the best teachers on RHS campus.”
Another Senior, Jessica Ham, considers him one of the best teachers she has ever had. “I was so scared when I signed up for this class. I thought I was going to fail. But when class started I wasn’t scared anymore because Mr. Kauk makes everything so fun and easy to learn.”
A typical workday for Kirby begins at 7:15. “Once the first bell rings, the magic begins. I do my best to captivate and engage the students in a manner that makes them feel welcome, encouraged, challenged, and even sometimes entertained.” Generally, his workday ends between 4:00-4:30. “Because there is very little if any time to actually prepare for the classroom while at school, I generally spend between 4 and 10 hours at home each week working to update, modify, and create instructional materials/presentations/lessons for my classes.”
“Kirby is a tremendous teacher and a great person to have on the campus of RHS,” said RHS Principal Rodney Cisneros. “His classes are very engaging. His students appreciate his instruction because he makes it relevant to them.” For the 1997/1998 school year, Kirby was KCUSD High School Teacher of the year.
According to RHS English teacher Janet Adams, Kirby is extremely knowledgeable and highly regarded by his students and staff. “Many students who may struggle in some classes decide on sports training as a career based on their success in his classes and sports medicine club.”
“Sports Med is one of my favorite classes particularly because Mr. Kauk is not only an exceptional teacher but also because he has a hilarious sense of humor,” shared RHS Junior Will Chiasson. “Sports Med is a truly rewarding experience, even if you help someone just by giving them a bag of ice.”
Before Kirby’s arrival at RHS, they didn’t have a real sports medicine program. By working closely with the staff, parents, athletes of RHS, and members of the RHS community, they were able to create a relatively comprehensive program. “The sports medicine course that I developed and instituted at RHS in 1988 was one of only five or six of its kind in the entire state. Thanks to KCUSD and The Pirate Athletic Foundation, we now have a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility on campus (I proposed and designed it) that rivals most college facilities.”
Kirby was awarded the High School Athletic Trainer of the Year for the Far West Athletic Trainers Association (California, Nevada, and Hawaii), and in 2002, was asked to be a presenter at the National Convention for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and speak about strategies he used to establish and optimize a high school sports medicine program.
Kirby’s wife Kathi is a Kindergarten teacher at A.L. Conner, and they have raised three children here in Reedley. Besides staying fit, he also enjoys woodworking, and home brewing in his rare free time. Kirby plans on remaining at RHS until he retires. “I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunities that I have had. It is hard to imagine our life without Reedley High School.”
Check out other profiles of those who exceed expectations in education in our Exceeding Expectations section.