Reid Kaalberg enjoys helping young people improve—that’s one reason he thrived as a youth sports coach. The Kalona, Iowa, native will now put his mentoring skills to work every day as a teacher, having earned a degree from Iowa in elementary education with endorsements in special education and reading.
Emily Nelson
Tim Schoon

Reid Kaalberg always knew he wanted to work with children. His initial plan was to become a lawyer who represented kids, particularly during custody cases, so his first year, he enrolled pre-law at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where he also played soccer.

Reid Kaalberg

Degree: BA in elementary education with endorsements in special education and reading

Hometown: Kalona, Iowa

Plans after graduation: Kaalberg will join Polk Alternative Education Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in January as a behavior-disorder teacher.

Fun fact: Kaalberg has a twin sister. He says they are polar opposites, particularly as he is 6-foot-1 and she is 5-foot-3.

“But I began to realize that I didn’t want to only be with kids when they were going through sad things,” says the Kalona, Iowa, native.

He transferred to Kirkwood Community College after a semester to figure out what he truly wanted to do. And he continued to coach club soccer teams.

“Coaching was essentially what sparked me to switch to elementary education,” Kaalberg says. “I knew I loved working with kids and helping them become better—not just as athletes, but better people. I decided I could do so much more in a school setting where I would get to see the kids every day and really build a relationship with them and watch them grow.”

Kaalberg transferred again, this time to the University of Iowa College of Education. He’ll graduate in December 2018 with a BA in elementary education with endorsements in special education and reading.

“Nowhere really felt like home until I came here,” Kaalberg says of the UI. “This experience has been insane and amazing. I love the people I have met and all the memories I have made, not just with friends but with faculty as well.”

Kaalberg credits his sister, who is a special education teacher in Tipton, Iowa, for helping him realize his calling was in the same field.

As he finishes his student teaching, Kaalberg says his experiences at the UI prepared him well. He specifically points to ample time in the classroom as an advantage.

“I’ve made so many connections that I know I’ll have forever, and people I know I can check in with or ask questions even after I leave [University of Iowa].”

Reid Kaalberg
receiving his BA in elementary education

“For my special education practicum, I was in a classroom three days a week while taking classes,” Kaalberg says. “These experiences have put me way ahead of where I’d be if I had gone elsewhere. I have friends at other programs who have told me they haven’t had nearly the time in the classroom that I have had.”

Kari Vogelgesang, clinical assistant professor and director of professional development for the Baker Teacher Leader Center, agrees that classroom time sets the UI apart.

“The moment students set foot on campus, we get them in classrooms,” Vogelgesang says. “Even before they are admitted in their Teacher Education Program, they have to complete so many hours in a classroom.”

Kaalberg says UI faculty also were key to his success.

“There are teachers who say they want you to be successful, but don’t show it,” Kaalberg says. “But the faculty here show it. I’ve made so many connections that I know I’ll have forever, and people I know I can check in with or ask questions even after I leave.”

Kaalberg says Vogelgesang is a prime example.

“She’s been a huge help,” Kaalberg says. “I know she’s always going to be there for me, even if it’s just to vent or to ask a question or for support.”

Only 9 percent of undergraduate students in the UI Elementary Teacher Education Program were male in fall 2018. However, Kaalberg says his gender was not an issue, and, in some cases, has proved to be an advantage.

Reid in the classroom

“I think some of the kids genuinely appreciate having a male figure in their lives, because some of them don’t have that at home, or if they do, it’s not consistent,” Kaalberg says. “I think going to a place where I’m in the minority as a male teacher has really helped these kids in more ways than just learning.”

Kaalberg isn’t taking any time off after student teaching. He’ll start his job as a behavior-disorder teacher at Polk Alternative Education Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in January 2019. He says he looks forward to building relationships with new colleagues and, of course, with his new students.

“I love seeing how quickly students can become comfortable with you,” Kaalberg says. “And once they’re comfortable, they’re willing to work for you and try harder. Seeing their progress is amazing.” 

Vogelgesang says Kaalberg’s ability to build relationships is one reason she knows he will be a great teacher.

“That relationship piece is key. If your students don’t trust you, they’re not going to buy in to what you’re saying and doing, and they’re not going to produce quality work,” Vogelgesang says. “But Reid’s natural characteristics are really going to work in his favor. He’s going to hit the ground running and be a leader within his first year. I can see it.”

Get to know the University of Iowa’s fall 2018 graduates.