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Next step grad school, again as a Blugold, for CSD major Kyra Saylor

Photo caption: CSD major Kyra Saylor was very pleased to find out as a new Blugold in 2020 that she could complete a certificate in American Sign Language (ASL). Saylor had been interested in learning ASL since attending school with a deaf student growing up and marveling at the way she and her ASL translator communicated.

As the daughter of two educators, graduating communication sciences and disorders senior Kyra Saylor says she always planned to build a life and career that included working with young children.  

“From an early age, my parents taught me the importance of making a positive impact in the life of a child,” says Saylor, who has spent the last seven summers coaching youth softball in her hometown of Necedah, work that has strengthened her interest in working with kids.  

“Teaching came naturally to me; I grew up around it,” she says. 

Saylor, who will graduate this month, is happy to share that she has enrolled in the UW-Eau Claire graduate program in speech-language pathology and will begin her courses in the fall. She says speech-language pathology is exciting to her because it offers a wide range of specialties across age groups.  

“That’s the beauty of speech pathology — the jobs are needed in so many settings, from early childhood through adulthood in clinical, hospital and educational settings, or many types of private-practice specialties.” 

“I’m leaning toward that youngest age group at this time, birth to three years, and graduate school will be my chance to narrow down that focus. I’m so thrilled to be able to continue my education in this department in a campus and community where I feel such deep connections,” Saylor says. 

Making community connections count  

As a CSD student, Saylor says she had a variety of opportunities to work and volunteer in the Eau Claire community, building those connections she looks forward to fostering as a graduate student. 

“I was part of the campus chapter of NSSLHA, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, the CSD Honor Society and the American Sign Language Honor Society,” Saylor says. “Through all these organizations, students can find volunteer hours working with people of all ages in the local area.” 

Saylor volunteered at an area clinic, Professional Speech Therapists LLC in Eau Claire, an opportunity to work with small children that she says helped spark her current interest in the youngest ages in speech pathology work.  

“The clinic has a child care center and I volunteered with the youngest kids,” she says. “Twice a week I worked one-on-one with a child on basic language development, exposing them to more skills through fun activities. I was very fortunate to get three years of volunteering there, work that has really steered my career goals.” 

Dr. Rebecca Jarzynski, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, says that Saylor repeatedly demonstrated a strong aptitude for working with the youngest demographics in the field.  

“I’ve been impressed with her ability to think broadly and holistically about the individuals with whom she will work,” says Jarzynski, citing examples in which Saylor crafted honors projects that broadened her understanding of child speech and language development within the important contexts of factors like mental health and family/social systems.  

“Kyra’s insights in class and in her honors projects clearly reveal compassion, critical thinking, an ability to take multiple perspectives and a continual desire to grow as a person — hallmarks of a successful speech-language pathologist,” Jarzynski says.   

A student job that led to a fulfilling honors capstone  

Kyra Saylor, CSD major, teaching sign language to young kids at the Children's Nature Academy

Kyra Saylor developed American Sign Language lessons for preschool-aged children, a program she implemented at the UWEC Children's Nature Academy as part of her graduate fulfillment in the ASL Honors program.

In addition to volunteer roles, Saylor also spent three years as a student employee at UW-Eau Claire’s Children’s Nature Academy (CNA), a child care and preschool facility that provides services to campus and community members alike.

“I’ve worked there for three years, in the classroom with the four-year-olds,” Saylor says.  

As one of her final major projects in her CSD program, Saylor found a unique opportunity to combine her work with children and a leadership capstone to fulfill her responsibilities in the American Sign Language Honor Society (ASLHS).  

“I’ve been the community outreach chair for the ASLHS, and one problem our club has had is finding enough volunteer hours for all of our members,” she says. “I thought maybe I could create something that would solve two issues at once.”  

The answer Saylor came up with very effectively accomplished that goal. She developed an eight-week lesson plan for the children at the CNA to learn American Sign Language (ASL), lessons that would be taught by her ASLHS club members. Saylor estimates that 50% of CSD majors elect to add the ASL certificate, so there always is a need to find more ASL outreach options.  

With the help of her ASL instructor and her supervising instructor at the CNA, Saylor created a schedule and lesson plans for eight sessions with three and four-year-olds to be exposed to basic sign language through play-based activities.  

“They learned the alphabet, numbers, colors, animal signs and many songs that incorporated those signs,” Saylor says. “The kids and teachers really loved the lessons; it went very well and our club members completed their hours.”   

Nicole Jones, senior lecturer for ASL, says that Saylor’s project was both fulfilling and effective for the student volunteer teachers and the youth who were exposed to ASL, many for the first time.  

“The series of lessons really had an impact on the youngsters, sparking a new curiosity to learn,” Jones says. “The UWEC students also enjoyed sharing their knowledge and love for this beautiful language — they take pride in teaching ASL to others.  

“Kyra is a very resolute student,” Jones adds. “This project showed her passion for both ASL and young children. Having more ASL exposure in the community will benefit everyone, and Kyra created and facilitated a successful program that our CSD department plans to continue using as part of the ASL certificate options.” 

Grateful and anxious for more quality instruction at UWEC 

As she sees her graduation day fast approaching, Saylor looks forward to a few months of a break in studies, but says she is beyond excited to begin her graduate program at UW-Eau Claire with the team of faculty and professionals she says provided a “dream” undergraduate experience.  

“When I was looking at graduate programs for speech-language pathology, it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to top what I already had here,” Saylor says.

“Nowhere else could beat the incredible faculty here. They care so much, not just about our education, but about their students as people. They are dedicated to our success and always go above and beyond to create opportunities for me to grow as a professional. It’s amazing.” 


For more information about communication sciences and disorders or the master’s degree in speech-language pathology at UW-Eau Claire, visit the CSD department website.