Youngest of 13 Children, Filmmaker and Author, Miles Kalbach Brings Curriculum to Life at Apex Learning

September 19, 2019
Miles Kalbach

Growing up, Miles Kalbach recalls a boisterous childhood filled with art, music and literature, and his parents fostering a passion for creativity.

“Dr. Seuss was like scripture in our house,” he said. “My father always read it to us, and everyone in my family can recite Dr. Seuss’s ABCs by heart.”

In his busy household, each of Miles’ 12 siblings seemed to find their own talent—whether it was sports, writing, music or design—and everyone played musical instruments. Miles was no exception. Very early on, he knew that he loved to draw and that one day he would pursue a career in art.

Miles went on to attend the Tyler School of Art, graduating in 2003, when he went to work as a graphic designer for a point of purchase firm for six years. Although he says there were aspects of the job he liked, he struggled with the repetitive nature of the work and felt uninspired by the perpetual pursuit of “selling more products.” As a creative outlet, he began devoting much of his personal time to developing expanded animations, including a music video for Coldplay and promotions for television shows.

“Animation has always been a passion of mine,” he said. “Even in middle school, I used to make stop motion animations using our video cassette camcorder.” It was the prospect of finding a day job where he could create animations, and the opportunity to switch industries, that eventually drew Miles to Apex Learning in 2009 when he was hired as a contract artist to create rich interactives, imagery and illustrations.

“I immediately felt like working with Apex was a more noble cause than what I was doing previously,” he said. “Education is much more exciting than just selling products. Every day we aim to improve students’ lives in some small incremental way, and I don’t think that’s too outlandish to believe.”

In 2011, Miles was hired on as a full-time Art Lead at Apex where he manages the planning, procurement, and creation of media for Courses and Tutorials. This includes obtaining photos, creating custom illustrations, graphs, and maps, editing videos and developing interactivity via HTML5.

“We collaborate with the curriculum team to create media pedagogy,” he said. “For every page of curriculum developed, we determine the main goal of the page and how we can best use media to support student learning, especially for those who are struggling. We’ve done a lot of research into the efficacy of educational media and how best to design interactives and diagrams with good, sound instructional principals.”

Much like a picture is worth 1000 words, Miles believes media should be weighed heavily when it comes to instruction.

“A student will glean a lot more from a well-designed diagram that’s succinctly labeled than they will from text alone,” he said. “We regularly ask ourselves the question, if we had to teach this concept without the use of any text, how would we do it? That makes our use of media so much more powerful, and it’s all for the sake of struggling learners.”

When he’s not in the office, Miles is usually exploring an opportunity to tell a visual story. He recently co-authored a children’s book, There’s Something Strange About Robbie, with his wife, Gracy, and he created the animated short film, Sonny Mails a Letter, that went on to receive multiple film festival awards. Most recently, he wrote and directed his first live-action feature film, Calibrated, which was just released this summer. He collaborated on the project with many of his siblings, his wife, and Apex Learning actor Nik Doner.

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