VIA’s Lexington campus is seated in the lush green hills of the Shenandoah Valley. The school’s large windows (decorated with construction paper daisies) overlook a scenic view of rolling mountains, endless emerald green trees, and a dizzying expanse of cobalt blue sky punctuated with dollops of creamy white clouds. Inside the school, every spare inch is utilized, with classrooms spilling over with shelves of books and brightly colored toys. The halls hum with activity as students and their one-on-ones color, count, and read. Laughter is frequent in Lexington.

In the school’s main gathering room, Kyle Harding is teaching math to three students, among them Supergirl and a fairy princess. The teachers frequently bring in costumes and toys, he explained, and today’s bounty was quickly and eagerly employed by VIA’s students. The fifteen-minute math session focused on multiple goals on varying levels for each child, and Kyle, with the help of the assigned behavior technicians, seamlessly moved through a lesson on money and decimal places, paused only by Skittles breaks. Calm, attentive, patient, and allowing space for each child’s dignity–it’s easy to see why Kyle Harding is so treasured here.

“Since I was a child,” he said, “my mother was a counselor, and she was always helping kids with special needs. I didn’t know any different–I’ve been around it my whole life. Mom never pushed me toward that–she was always just a helping hand in the community.”

Originally from Abingdon, Va., Kyle grew up around his best friend’s brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He saw the impact that had on the family, and along with a lifelong interest in behavior and the mind, he pursued a degree in psychology from Virginia Tech.

After graduation, Kyle began working for BRAAC full-time in 2009. He initially learned about BRAAC through his wife, Meagan, who began her VIA career in 2008 and now serves as the director of the Lexington campus. The Hardings worked in Roanoke before transferring to Lexington after their son was born in 2016. Kyle is now a Level 4 Registered Behavior Technician; he both teaches students and trains behavior technicians.

Kyle remembered BRAAC’s early days operating out of a church basement. “We had Angie Leonard and Patti Cook there and we were all freshly graduated college kids. I just fell head over heels,” he said. “I thought, ‘How are these guys doing it? How are they so happy?’ It was such a family. I loved every minute of it.”

Here in Lexington, Kyle tries to recreate that same family feeling from those early days.

“We’ve come a long way from that church basement,” he laughed.

When asked what advice he would give to new behavior technicians at VIA, he thought for a moment.

“I just wish for hope for the future and encourage everybody to stay at it,” he said. “Be a part of this big change we’re pushing. Our staff right now is always ready to do something new–we’ll swallow any pride to try new things. These folks would drop anything to help better someone’s life. I am just so proud to know them.”

Even though the Hardings stay busy with two small children, Kyle said working at VIA still motivated him every day.

“I’m always ready to get to work and get it done,” he said. “I look forward to it every day.”