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Robert Felthousen

Diesel instructor loves teaching

“I would rather teach than do anything else,” declares Kemp Pheley, chair of RCC’s Diesel Technology program.

Pheley, who came to RCC three years ago from Alaska, has been a college teacher for 20-plus years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in vocational/technical adult education from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and master’s degrees from UW-Eau Claire and Montana State University.

“Ryan Kahl is one of the best and brightest students I have had in over 20 years of teaching,” Pheley said. “He is driven, goal oriented and very capable. Also, Ryan has the type of personality and the intellect to earn advanced degrees beyond the AAS and the temperament to become a teacher, which is something he and I have discussed,” Pheley added. “Ryan is the type of individual you want to hire and to know.”

Ryan KahlHard work paying dividends for diesel student

For the past two years, Ryan Kahl has left his home north of Grants Pass at 7 a.m. and driven an hour to the Rogue Community College Table Rock Campus in White City to study diesel technology.

He returns home at about 11 p.m., having traveled 100 miles roundtrip. Now his dedication is paying off. Kahl will soon complete work on an Associate of Applied Science degree in diesel technology, and he’s already been hired as a technician for Cummins Diesel in Medford.

‘I’m very glad I did it,” said Kahl, who earned a 3.85 grade point average. Kahl, 35, fulfilled a Cooperative Work Experience (CWE) requirement at Cummins Diesel, which allowed him to get hands-on experience while earning college credit.

Bob Anderson, Cummins operations manager, said CWE gives employers a chance to size up not only students’ abilities but also their character and how they get along with other people.

“It gives me an insight into how the college is preparing people. In Ryan’s case, he came well prepared,” said Anderson, who has hired other RCC grads in the past. “First off, we look for a good work ethic,” he noted, adding that strong writing and math abilities are also critical and that Kahl met all those criteria.

Diesel technology is rapidly changing, especially emission controls, and technicians need strong learning skills, according to Anderson.

Tasha Kahl, Ryan’s wife of nine years, says she’s glad about the job he’s been offered at Cummins.

“I’m relieved he has more stable work instead of moving from mill to mill,” she said. “But first and foremost, it sets a good example about education for our kids,” who are ages 3, 6, and 8.

The Kahls live in Wolf Creek on a 200-acre ranch where Ryan grew up. He graduated in 1993 from North Valley High School and lost three jobs in six years to plant layoffs and closures. After losing a millwright position in 2009, he came to RCC to explore career options. Armed with funding through the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Kahl’s goal was to build a family-supporting career that held a degree of long-range security.

When he scored high on aptitude tests for hands-on professions, Kahl’s advisor steered him toward diesel technology. It’s been a fine fit, he said. “I’ve always liked working on vehicles,” he explained.

Kemp Pheley, RCC Diesel Technology coordinator, has been “helpful, supportive and patient,” Kahl said. “He creates a positive learning environment and shows you how to get things done. I hounded Kemp with questions about if I’d get a job, and he told me, ‘Just be patient. You’ll get a job.’ ”
RCC students can opt for a one-year diesel specialist certificate or earn an Associate of Applied Science degree. The Rogue Valley is a major commercial trucking hub, Pheley said, and new technical developments are increasing career opportunities.

“For trained techs there will be new opportunities,” he affirmed.

Visit the RCC website for more information about the Diesel Technology program.

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Atana Morell