Please congratulate Katie Messerly, English, for being voted Teacher of the Year!
Mrs. Messerly has taught at Harding for over three years. In addition to teaching junior-level English, she is coach of the Speech & Debate Team and Volleyball Team. Her passion for teaching started her sophomore year of high school because of influential teachers such as Mr. Nemetz. “He had us call him Coach, partly because he was the head football coach, but also because he said he was there to coach us on life and not only literary skills” she said. Now Mrs. Messerly hopes to be that role model for future educators in her class.
She was drawn to work at Harding because of its mission of arts-integrated education. Mrs. Messerly also appreciates the small community that HFA faculty has cultivated. One of her favorite aspects of teaching is seeing the way student accept and support each other. “I have never felt so close to my fellow teachers and the community we have built cannot be beat. I only see the community getting stronger in the years to come.”
Mrs. Messerly’s advice to future educators is to “dive right in” and ask questions of current teachers. “Do not wait for college education courses to seek out opportunities to learn more. . . . Foster your interest and let others help and guide you. Do not be afraid to go after your passion” she shared.
Interview with Katie Messerly:
How long have you been a teacher? How long have you been teaching at Harding Fine Arts Academy?
I am currently in my seventh year of teaching, and this is my third year at Harding Fine Arts Academy.
What subjects do you teach currently? Do you sponsor any clubs? Coach any teams?
I teach junior English which includes English 11 and AP Language and Composition. I am also the speech coach and head volleyball coach. I do not currently sponsor any clubs, but I’ve talked with a lot of my current juniors about starting a Marvel club next year!
What inspired you to choose teaching as a career? What made you want to teach at Harding?
My passion for teaching began when I was a sophomore in high school and it was my teacher at the time, Mr. Nemetz, who inspired me. He had us call him Coach, partly because he was the head football coach, but also because he said he was there to coach us on life and not only literary skills. I think he also liked to use the “Coach” angle as a reason to throw his foul flags at students when they fell asleep!
During my senior year, I enrolled in an elective where I could serve as a student assistant to another teacher for the year, so I chose Mr. Nemetz. He encouraged all conversation, let me be involved in his lessons and that solidified my decision to be an educator. I hope I can be a touchstone for students in the same way Mr. Nemetz was one for me.
I was in my second year of teaching in South Korea when my husband and I decided to return to Oklahoma. I was unfamiliar with Oklahoma City schools since my career began in Tulsa, but as I researched the area, Harding Fine Arts Academy stood out for its focus on the arts and encouragement of creativity in the classroom. I liked the smaller population and the opportunity to foster strong relationships with my students and colleagues.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching at Harding?
My favorite aspect of teaching at Harding is the community. Every day I see students looking out for each other and supporting each other. Furthermore, the staff at this school is amazing. I know that I can count on my fellow teachers no matter what happens. We can push each other, but also laugh together. I have never felt so close to my fellow teachers and the community we have built cannot be beat. I only see the community getting stronger in the years to come.
What do you do differently in your classroom to engage your students?
A central element of my teaching philosophy is the belief that every student has a unique voice that deserves to be heard. I consistently try to present different options and assignments for students to show their views and learn about topics that matter to them.
How has your role as a teacher evolved over the years you’ve been in the classroom?
Over the years, I have learned to embrace the mistakes and I have come to the realization that the students don’t need perfection from me. I am not as afraid to try something different, and if it doesn’t work, that’s ok; I want my students see me when something doesn’t go as planned.
Last year, I adapted my Gatsby unit materials to use for both my virtual and in-person students. I made all the resources and organized them into individual folders for each student, but very quickly realized it was not going to work for a variety of reasons. I concluded that the unit could not go forward. With my in-person students, we held a “funeral” for the unit, dropping the beautiful resource folders into a box as a picture of a smiling Gatsby looking on. I encouraged students to cry fake tears and I played some overly dramatic music. The unit didn’t work, but both the students and I got a great memory out of it.
What has been your best moment teaching?
Thankfully, my favorite kind of teaching moment has happened more than once. My favorite moments are when former students come to visit me.
What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers?
The advice I would give to those interested in becoming teachers is to dive in now. Reach out to favorite teachers and enjoy some conversations about the profession. Do not wait for college education courses to seek out opportunities to learn more. This is true of any profession, really. Foster your interest and let others help and guide you. Do not be afraid to go after your passion.