From teacher to life coach

GVSU alumnus shares 'adulting' tips on YouTube

By Jessica Harsevoort | 8/31/17 1:23am

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GVL / Courtesy - Kevin Spaans

There is no class on “life” for high school students and college students to prepare them for the real world. So, Kevin Spaans, an alumnus of Grand Valley State University, expanded his teaching beyond the classroom with a YouTube channel giving life advice to viewers.   

“There are a lot of things I think young people should know, but those things are not necessarily taught in school,” Spaans said. “There is either not enough time or school is not the right environment to learn such things.”   

Before graduating in 2013, Spaans spent his time at GVSU majoring in English for secondary education and minoring in history. He graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2013.   Currently, Spaans lives in Grand Rapids and commutes to Montabella Junior/Senior High School where he teaches English language arts and social studies. However, Spaans felt some information might be missing from the typical school curriculum.   

With the internet, he realized he could reach more people than just the students in his classes. In 2014, around the same time he started teaching, Spaans started a YouTube channel with videos about life advice. The series, called “On Teens,” includes videos on various topics, including building self-confidence, speaking in public and being an adult.   

“Seeing people follow their passion and dreams and actually live up to their potential is the biggest thing that Kevin can possibly accomplish,” said Andrew Smith, the channel’s video producer. 

To encourage the success of others, Spaans switches from sitting in front of a class to sitting in front of a camera after work once every other week. With a white screen behind him, he typically talks about an idea based on a loose script.   

“I laugh at most of the jokes the first time,” Smith said. “The best part for me is to get to hear the humor in it.”  

As a result, Spaans and Smith may do a few different takes to get all of the material. Then, Smith edits the videos before they are posted every other Wednesday.    

For every subject, Spaans and Smith try to keep the value of learning alive by encouraging people to join the conversation with comments and questions.    

“Usually, we try not to have a completely one-sided opinion,” Smith said. “We’re just saying, ‘These are some of our thoughts.’ So, go out, research and make your opinions.”   

Furthermore, while anyone can watch the vlog, the target audience for many of the shows is young adults.   

“I hope that they watch the videos, hear me talk and realize another sensibility like theirs exists,” Spaans said. “There is somebody who understands life and sees it the way that they do.”   

Furthermore, whether in the classroom or online, Spaans can easily empathize with his audience. Smith said that Spaans is relatable because he is real, authentic and takes notice of teenagers’ interests.   

To connect with his students at school, Spaans spends much of his personal time cheering at extracurricular events, coaching sports teams and guiding field trips. On the internet, he uses stories, humor and advice to connect with viewers.   

Overall, although being a teacher and YouTuber are separate experiences, Spaans offers advice for every person.   

“Be aware: Try to notice what people do and why they do it,” Spaans said. “You can learn a lot about life and people if you just pay a little bit of attention.”    

Spaans and Smith hope to entertain and help people navigate life with the YouTube channel. In addition, Spaans can sustain his passion for connecting with others one class, or one video, at a time.    

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