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Compelled to mentor, graduate redirects studies to coach and teach

Following his final wrestling match at Forsyth Central High School, Nathan Kistler left the mat with a newfound vision — to become a coach and teacher and provide the same mentorship that he received throughout school. Yet, as a new student at Georgia Southern University, Kistler chose to study business.

“I had people tell me that I wouldn’t make any money as a teacher and that it can be hard behind the scenes, and I got discouraged,” said Kistler. “I thought business would be a better path.”

However, Kistler couldn’t muster enthusiasm for business courses.

“I had to push hard to want to do the school work,” explained Kistler. “I can be creative and thought I could use those skills for sales and advertising, but I was really not listening to myself. What I wanted was to work with students.”

Kistler changed his major to middle grades education, and the impact was immediate.

“It was a lot different than I thought it would be,” he said. “When it came to my education courses, I didn’t have to push so hard to pay attention. I was excited.”

Kistler said the opportunity to consistently learn in and outside of the classroom reaffirmed his decision.

“I had student-teaching placements every semester giving me awesome experiences and really building my passion for the career,” he said. “It made me more excited as I got to build relationships with students and teachers.”

Kistler completed a B.S.Ed. in middle grades education with concentrations in social studies and science in the spring during the unprecedented COVID-19 distance learning at the University. Since then he has lined up a job as an eighth grade science teacher and an assistant football coach at Otwell Middle School in his hometown of Cumming, Georgia.

“I wanted to come home to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” he said.

Kistler began meeting with teachers almost immediately after accepting the job in May and has started conditioning and training with the football team virtually.

“It’s interesting and different, but meeting virtually and working at a distance pushes me and others to be creative in how we deliver instruction and form relationships with our peers and students.”

Regardless of the challenges he may face with the ongoing threat of a pandemic, Kistler says he is ready.

“I know there are exciting times ahead, and I cannot wait,” he said.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 26,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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