This is part of a monthly “My Student Experience” series in which the NC State College of Education highlights the student experience through profiles, stories and videos.
Gymnastics is not a sport you can pick up right away, says NC State gymnast Hailey Mesmer ‘20. You have to work hard to acquire the skills you need to perform at a high level. The same is true for teaching, adds the mathematics education major.
Mesmer discovered that during her student teaching experience.
“All of my skills that I do, it took me years to learn some of them,” she said. “[Gymnastics] has taught me the qualities of hard work and determination. Since I’ve had to work really hard to acquire all of my gymnastics skills, I took those qualities and used them in my student teaching. I wanted to work really hard to make sure my students learn to their maximum potential and strive to achieve their best.”
Mesmer completed her student teaching last semester at Wake STEM Early College High School, which confirmed her decision to pursue a career in teaching.
“It was an amazing experience. All the kids there were really smart and they wanted to be there and wanted to learn. They made my experience really enjoyable,” she said. “It definitely had its challenges, but that experience has prepared me for what I’m going to do in the future.”
Mesmer’s student teaching experience helped her realize her goal as a teacher and it inspired her as a future educator. Being able to interact with high school students in a math class and see the impact she made on their educational journey was life changing.
“My biggest goal is to make it so my students enjoy math. I want them to enjoy what they’re learning, come to class every day with an open mind and be eager to learn,” she said. “Knowing that I did that for those students is one of the biggest takeaways that I got out of student teaching.”
Mesmer loves math. So much she changed her major from human biology to mathematics education after her first semester because she was disappointed she wouldn’t be able to take any more math classes.
“I just really like math. I like that there’s always a right answer. And I just love the challenge in it,” she said. “There’s just something about math that just clicks naturally with me.”
Now, the senior from Oak Ridge, Tenn., is preparing to be a high school math teacher.
“I love math and I really love working with kids. Teaching gives me the best of both worlds,” Mesmer said. “I had some really good teachers throughout high school that I’ve been able to build personal connections with, and I really want to be that for students — a good role model in their lives and that person they can come to if they need anything. Not only in school, but in life.”
Not only has Mesmer had teachers who have served as role models throughout her life, but she has had coaches and teammates who have supported and encouraged her over the years.
Mesmer has participated in gymnastics for 19 years. What started out as a “mommy and me” class at 2 years old transformed into competitions at age 6. And now she’s a member of the NC State gymnastics team. Her favorite event is the uneven bars.
“I love [gymnastics] so much. What I enjoy most is definitely the community. I’ve been able to make a lot of friends and I’ve met a lot of different people,” she said. “It’s definitely taught me hard work and discipline and I’ve learned a lot of life lessons and life skills.”
As a student-athlete at NC State, Mesmer has had to turn to those life lessons as she balances coursework, hours of practice, weights, competitions and the NC State College of Education’s field-based learning experiences.
“I was placed at a couple of different schools. Each school had a different environment of students, which gave me a different experience of being able to interact with different groups of students,” she said. “Getting to talk to different teachers, I was able to see different teaching styles and classroom management styles before I had to actually implement my own.”
Those field-based experiences prepared Mesmer for her future as an educator.
After graduation, Mesmer plans to return to her home state of Tennessee and earn a master’s degree in math education, while teaching in a local high school. And becoming a gymnastics coach is not off of the table.
Photography credit: Ken Martin, NC State Athletics