To say Kim Van Deest is a popular teacher is an understatement.
"She's awesome," said Maxine Tisdale.
Van Deest teaches computer and technology-related classes at the Waterloo Public Library. About 12 to 20 classes are offered each month, ranging from computer basics to Skype to iPads.
All the classes are free and open to anyone, but Van Deest said most of her students are retirees.
"They are just beginning to feel lost," said Van Deest. "They're feeling disconnected from their own family -- definitely from their grandchildren, and maybe great-grandchildren."
The Grundy Center native has a master's in physiology, but she always had a desire to teach. Now, she's helping to take the frustration out of using technology.
"Computers don't have to be scary," she said. "They can be very frustrating. You want to throw it out the window, but you can learn. I don't care how old you are."
Van Deest says she knew early on what kind of teacher she hoped to be one day.
"My mom took a computer class 20 years ago. After a couple minutes she was lost, and the guy didn't address her the entire time," said Van Deest. "I think I heard that story when I was in middle school, and I'll never forget it. That's what I remember.
"Nobody's going to leave my class feeling that way," she added.
Students said Van Deest is the reason they keep coming back.
"I even brought my husband because he's in dire need of becoming tech-savvy on computers and his tablet," said Tisdale.
Van Deest, her students say, makes attending a two-hour class fun.
"She's funny. She adds a lot of humor to the class, and I really enjoy her," said Richard Pint. "There's nothing dull about her, that's for sure."
Kim Van Deest said the Waterloo Public Library is a place everyone should know, and she's just one small part of helping people becoming comfortable with technology.
"Anybody can do it," she said. "You just have to be willing to try."
You don't need to have a library card or even live in Waterloo to attend any of the free classes, she said -- just sign up. There's room for about 15 to 18 people per class. You can see a schedule of this month's classes by clicking here.
Besides the Waterloo Public Library, Van Deest also teaches at Hawkeye Community College and at the Cedar Falls Public Library.
Van Deest came back to eastern Iowa about seven years ago after traveling the country with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She was helping to install 40,000 computers in 10,000 libraries across the country.
Previously, she played basketball at Iowa State University and coached at Indiana State.
Besides computers, Van Deest is passionate about animals and has several rescue pets.
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