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"She always listened to everyone if they had something to say. She always gave people a second chance if they messed up." That's how a former student describes elementary school teacher Hilary Mertens. KSMU's Missy Shelton spoke with the student and Mertens for this feature.
From the moment you enter Hilary Mertens’ classroom at Highlandville Elementary School, you know it’s not like other classrooms. There are posters and cut-outs from movies like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates are clearly a favorite theme here.
Mertens has taught 4th grade at Highlandville Elementary School for 14 years. This is the first year she’s teaching a combined class of 4th and 5th grade students and many of those 5th graders were in her 4th grade class last year.
She says teaching a combined class is fun and challenging. The words fun and challenging seem to go together well in this classroom where Mertens fills the walls with the things she loves (did I mention the pirates?) and she encourages her students to embrace the things they love.
Mertens made an impression on Adrian Tygart. He’s now in 6th grade and had Hilary Mertens 2 years ago as a 4th grader. He says his former teacher ought to receive some recognition for her work.
Adrian says he learned a lot from Hilary Mertens.
Mertens made an impression on Adrian Tygart’s mother, Jacqueline.
Hilary Mertens says she wants her students to be happy and achieve their full potential. She says she tries to set high expectations.
Mertens didn’t grow up knowing she’d be a teacher. She says she thought she would find a career caring for animals. But that changed when she had a chance to work with kids.
Even now as an educator, she still finds time to work with animals. And that’s something she shares with her students. Jacqueline Tygart remembers when she and her son ran into Mertens when she was doing work on behalf of animals.
Mertens says she hopes that her students leave her classroom at the end of the year feeling good about the time they spent with her.