Carly Merdinger was in a pool, teaching kids how to swim, when it hit her a couple of years ago:
I enjoy this, and I’m pretty good at this.
Now a senior at Glenbrook South High School, Merdinger sees herself teaching kids — dry ones, in a classroom — for a living after her college years.
“My favorite age group is the one with four- and five-year-olds,” says Merdinger, a junior varsity swimmer in the fall and an instructor with the school’s Learn-to-Swim program since 2014. “Those kids are enthusiastic about learning and so much fun to be around. One of them asked me, in the middle of a lesson, ‘Can we talk about princesses?’ I told her, “We can always talk about princesses.’
“The key to teaching,” she adds, “is building relationships with your students.”
Her relationship with Glenbrook South JV swimming coach and family and consumer sciences teacher Kim Kiraly is a strong one. Merdinger is a student in Kiraly’s Child Development class.
“She’s an amazing teacher, one of the most supportive teachers I know,” says Merdinger, primarily a sprinter for the Titans’ JV swimming and diving team in the 2017 season. “I like the way she teaches and the freedom she gives her students. You know what else she does that makes her such an effective teacher? She trusts her students.”
Merdinger was seven years old and had tried soccer and ballet when she dipped her toes into competitive water at a Glenbrook Aquatics Club session in Northbrook. She took to it — quickly.
“I liked being in the water,” Merdinger recalls. “It was soothing and calming.”
Nearly 10 years later, the setting for her project in her AP Photography class, was … underwater. Merdinger, a junior at the time, got permission to use one of Glenbrook South’s pools for the shoot. Peers dressed in prom threads — obtained from a thrift shop — and posed underwater for Merdinger. One subject kept her eyes wide open while Merdinger clicked, clicked, clicked.
Merdinger, a National Honor Society member, also serves as a Peer Group leader at Glenbrook South. Among the responsibilities in that leadership role is to help freshmen make a smooth transition to high school. Merdinger and her group of students gathered for a get-together at the school on Halloween. Each had donned a costume for the school day.
All posed for a picture.
“I was Supergirl,” Merdinger says. “I wore a red metallic skirt, with a pink shirt under a T-shirt with an ‘S’ on it.
“I love my freshmen, and I love what they’re doing with their opportunities outside of the classroom.”
Steve and Marcia Merdinger must feel the same way about their daughter, who has been active in 4-H at Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview since the sixth grade. Steve Merdinger signed up for Chicago-based Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) when he knew Carly would stick with her commitment to swimming.
PCA is a national non-profit organization with the mission to transform the culture of youth sports so that youth athletes can have a positive, character-building experience.
Carly’s dad has been a PCA Chicago chapter board member.
“My dad is a big believer in having a positive attitude … in always having a positive attitude,” Merdinger says. “It’s a key to success. He sometimes texts me and asks me to text him three good things about the day I’m having.”
She must have, at least once, replied, “Water, water, water.”
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