November 14, 2014

Hard Work Inside and Outside the Classroom Lands Kuehl '15 a Full-Time Job

Grant Kuehl '15 teaches students at Mission Grammar School in 2013.

What one professor said to Grant Kuehl '15 nearly four years ago changed his life forever. The whole reason Kuehl, who is graduating in December with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Elementary Education, came to Emmanuel was because of Assistant Professor of Education Christine Leighton.

Kuehl, along with his father, spoke with Dr. Leighton during Accepted Student Visit Day, while he was deciding what college to attend.

"Dr. Leighton said Emmanuel's program would better fit my needs," Kuehl said. "She was the catalyst. I call her Professor Dumbledore because she put this whole thing into motion. She nominated me for the travel grant. She's been the reason I've stayed."

He added, "I thought about transferring to do more research, but then I realized I could create it, I can manifest it, I can mold it. And I've done it with every professor. I've researched and presented in three different disciplines: education, psychology and sociology."

Fast forward three years and Kuehl has been completing his pre-practicums and practicum by student teaching fourth grade at Quincy Catholic Academy in Quincy, Massachusetts.  Early in November, the school offered Kuehl a full-time position as the Coordinator of ELL Services and Advanced Student Reading starting in January. He happily accepted.

 "I fell in love with the school and didn't want to leave," Kuehl said about deciding to complete all his practicum work at Quincy Catholic. "This is incredible."

Upon embarking on his journey at Emmanuel, Kuehl wasted no time.  Even as a freshman, his hard work was noticed by Dr. Leighton; she recommended that he apply to the Emmanuel College Travel Grant for Advanced Study to do his own research. He worked on a 53-page proposal for 14 hours ("I overachieved," he joked) and landed the grant. His work impressed Dr. Kimberly Sofronas, associate professor of mathematics education, and she asked him to work on research with her. And so, Kuehl's research and networking began.

"When Dr. Leighton sent me that e-mail, it was a confidence booster. She believed in me, and that was huge for a freshman student," he said.

The possibilities were endless for Kuehl as he wanted to move beyond the classroom. He wanted to learn from all different avenues, like one-on-one meetings with professors and classmates, research, methods, interviews and even learning from failure.

"I've transformed the experience that college provides. I've taken the cookie cutter and said, 'Let's make our own cookie. Let's remove the boundaries.'"

How did Kuehl break boundaries? By his own admission, Kuehl said he is "a different breed of student," in the sense that he's actively seeking; he looks for research opportunities inside and outside the education department, beyond what is required of him, on his own time.

As an undergraduate research assistant, Kuehl began working in 2012 with Dr. Clare Mehta, assistant professor of psychology, to develop studies investigating gender and friendships among emerging adult-adult populations.  From 2013 to 2014, Kuehl developed a study assessing how pre-service and in-service teachers access mathematical work samples using a validated rubric tool with then director of assessment and assistant professor of education Dr. Abigail Lau and Dr. Sofronas. In 2014, he worked with Dr. Leighton to create an extensive literature review on best instructional practices and attitudes toward working with English Language Learning (ELL) students.

Currently, he is co-authoring a chapter with Dr. Janese Free, assistant professors of sociology, and Dr. Katrin Križ, associate professor of sociology, regarding the care proceedings process of children placed in child protective services in the United States.  The book is expected to be published in fall 2015 by Oxford University Press.

Most recently, Grant presented the paper, "Pre-service and In-service Teachers' Rubric Assessments of Mathematical Problem Solving," that he worked on with Dr. Sofronas and Dr. Lau at the 45th Annual Conference of the Northeastern Education Research Association on October 22nd - 24th in Trumbull, Connecticut. On October 31st, he presented "A Service-Learning Project with a Neighborhood Elementary School Provides a Context for Preparing Pre-service Teachers for the Challenges of Teaching Inquiry-Based Science," which he worked on with Dr. Fiona McDonnell, associate professor of science education, at the Massachusetts Association of College for Teacher Education (MACTE) Conference in Worcester, Massachusetts.

While at Emmanuel, Kuehl has presented at two other conferences and presented three times for summer research seminars. He estimates that he has spent nearly 5,000 hours in meetings, reading articles, drafting papers, presenting and traveling for his research. He loves every minute of it.

"I'm confident," Kuehl said in response to presenting his research. "I know that the school and professors have my back, and I'm confident of my research."

Before and during his time at Emmanuel, Kuehl traveled to different countries and compiled research in multiple states. He said he began to see the world for what it is through the lens of education and the needs of children. He wants to make a difference by helping children in all pockets of the world who are less fortunate. Beyond teaching, his love for research began when Dr. Leighton believed his skills were strong and suggested that he apply for the travel grant to do research.

"I've done it all and it's because I sought out everything. I wanted to do education research, so I would go and meet people and say, 'What can we do? What's feasible? What can we look at?' I'm interested in it all," he said.

When Kuehl says he's done it all, he isn't exaggerating - the soon-to-be graduate made the most of his time at Emmanuel and in Boston. Outside the classroom, Kuehl was a first year seminar fellow, a chapel cantor and Eucharistic minister, a member of the Education Club, president of the Colleges of the Fenway Educational Film Lecture Series, a student worker for the education department, a statistician for Emmanuel's athletic department, a Resident Assistant, an Orientation Leader and employee at the Yawkey Way Red Sox Team Store at Fenway Park.

"I love it. I made space for it," Kuehl said about balancing work and activities. "I don't think I've taken on more than I can chew. I was able to contribute to everything that I've worked on."

While working at Quincy Catholic, Kuehl plans to get his master's degree, followed by a doctorate in education leadership. He'd like to teach at the collegiate level and be a policy maker.  Teaching at Emmanuel is definitely an option, he added.

 "The way I see myself as a teacher is being somebody who teaches future teachers down the line. My goal is to be a principal and to write policy and come back and teach effective practice years down the road," he said.

In a few short weeks, Kuehl's career as a student at Emmanuel will come to an end, but he believes the training he has received at the College has prepared him for the working world and gave him the edge to land a job. 

His advice to underclassman is to ask questions, get involved and have confidence to make the most of the college experience.

"I put my heart and soul into everything. Whether it was classes, interactions with professors, research or campus engagement, I was passionate about it," Kuehl said. "The things that I've touched have been worthwhile and meaningful. My experience here has been second to none."