A Special Education major, Calli Kessinger has been selected as the 2023 UNCG Student Teacher of the Year and will represent UNC Greensboro at the upcoming state competition sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (NCACTE).
Kessinger’s journey to earning her degree from UNCG included some twists. She began her collegiate career at UNC Asheville before spending two years at Central Carolina Community College. It was then that she headed to UNCG.
“When I knew that I was serious about going into education, and after hearing so many great things about UNCG’s special education program, I knew I would do pretty good here. I’ve had the best support that I could have asked for, not only from my professors, but from my cooperating teachers in each internship,” said Kessinger.
Kessinger, who was also recently honored as a recipient of the 2023 Provost Student Excellence Award, looks back at her time in taekwondo to find the spark that led her to a career in education. By the time she was 12 years old, Kessinger was teaching both children and adults in her martial arts classes.
She said, “This is where I developed the leadership, rapport, and networking skills that I am able to bring into academic settings. I fell in love with teaching at a young age, but I also knew that taekwondo wasn’t going to be ‘it’ for me. During my senior year of high school, I was given the opportunity to assist in physical education classes with the students with moderate-severe disabilities. I paired myself up with the student that came with a forewarning of ‘being too aggressive.’ This student quickly became my best friend in and out of school. After graduation, I figured that combining my love for teaching and my love for supporting those with disabilities would be my best shot at a happy and fulfilling career. Boy, was I right! Since then, every time I’ve stepped foot in a classroom, I’ve felt at home. I’ve taken all of the information I’ve gained and ran with it to best support every student that I interacted with, not only the ones that I worked with day in and day out. My only hope is that every day my students will have gained just as much from me as I have from them.”
Student teaching at Western Alamance High School has delivered many memorable moments for Kessinger, but when asked to select her favorite she recalled tie-dying shirts with her students this year. The students created and sold tie-dye shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and keychain wristlets in order to raise money for their Occupational Couse of Study program. The moments preparing these shirts outside of the classroom setting allowed Kessinger to get to know her students a little better.
She said, “These were the times where my students and I would just talk, get to know each other, laugh, and provide opportunities to show interest in them outside of their grades in my classes or how they got the answer in math. I will by far remember these fun bonding times over who scored a 100 on a math quiz and who didn’t!”
As she looks to the future, Kessinger has been applying for jobs at high schools around the region. Ideally, she would like to land a position at the new Southeast Alamance High School that would keep her close to the team that supported her during her student teaching. However, she is just excited to get in the classroom to continue helping students.
“Wherever I end up, I’m confident that I will make a difference,” said Kessinger.