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Katie Melin

Teacher & Roller Derby Player

Why She’s Amazing

Katie Melin doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to be more.

After a move to North Carolina where she didn’t know anyone, Katie began playing roller derby with the Carolina Rollergirls in 2006. She never thought she’d have the courage to try a full contact sport but ended up loving not only the sport but also its message. Initially, Katie worried what people would think, but then she developed a sense of pride, especially upon inspiring the girls she taught.

Katie is also a teacher – a math teacher who struggled with math as a student. However, she kept trying and eventually found a passion for the subject. In fact, Katie was honored in 2015 as the “Math Teacher of the Year” from Wake County Public Schools, the largest county in North Carolina.

We had a chance to ask Katie a few questions. Read on for this modern day trailblazer’s insight and message of empowerment.

“I like to challenge ideas, usually because it makes a great conversation.” – Katie Melin

Q & A

Q: When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?

A: When I was little, I initially wanted to be a lawyer. I liked to argue for what I thought was right. Eventually, I thought a teacher would be better; I liked seeing progress and knowing that I helped someone learn a new concept.

Q: What did people think when you told them that?

A: There was no pushback for what I wanted to to. I was always supported in whatever I wanted to do.

Q: Did people call you “princess” when you were a little girl and, if so, how did that make you feel?

A: I don’t recall ever being called a princess. I grew up in a family of three girls, and all of us were and still are fiercely independent and headstrong. I sometimes dreamed of being one; however, I knew I wasn’t the princess type.

Q: How did you become interested in becoming a teacher and doing roller derby on the side?

A: When I started at VU, I knew I was going to graduate with an education degree, and I did. I loved all the student teaching and it cemented what I wanted to do. I did not start roller derby until 2005. I was in a new state, NC, knew few people and the opportunity to get involved with this up-and-coming sport was presented. I like taking risks, so I took it. The Carolina Rollergirls trained me and taught me how to play. I played my first game in 2006.

Q: Did you have a mentor or role model who inspired you?

A: For teaching, not so much. However, when I started to play derby there were so many women that inspired me to just go for it, no matter what. They all amazed me with their no fear attitude.

Q: Did your family and friends support your aspirations?

A: My friends had no trouble. My family was also very supportive. It was something I never thought I would do and then I went out and did it!

Q: Did you think about being called a “trailblazer” for choosing this path?

A: Kind of. I was hesitant to share with work what I did. I wanted to keep my job and was worried that it might influence how people thought of me. I got Teacher of the Year when I started derby, so after a while I stopped worrying about what others thought and just did what I wanted to do. I know that I inspired some girls that I taught.

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Q: What motivates you?

A: Right now, my son. I retired from derby soon after he was born. I continued to serve on their board of directors for several years after, because I cared deeply for the cause and message of roller derby.

Q: Of what are you most proud?

A: I am really proud that at 30 years old I picked up a full contact sport. It was really scary at first, but I figured, if the girls out there can do it, why can’t I? I also received Math Teacher of the Year from Wake County Public Schools. It’s the largest county in NC, so that is quite the honor.

Q: What would you like people to learn from you?

A: I want them to learn that you can achieve most anything. It might be hard now, but you will get it one day. It also might be something you have never heard of; you may be destined to succeed in something you have not even dreamed of. You also need to work hard. I received the Math Teacher of the Year for my county this year. I fully believe that came from hard work and dedication to the love of teaching, especially math!

Q: What three words would you like people to use to describe you?

A: Smart. Strong. Amazing.

Q: What do you want people to know about you outside of your professional accomplishments?

A: I am pretty laid back and have a nice, dry sense of humor. I like to challenge ideas, usually because it makes a great conversation.

Q: Who do you follow on social media that shares your passion for education?

A: I follow my peers in education. I know it sounds corny, but the teachers from VU to the ones I have taught with over the years are my support group and who I go to for advice.

Q: If you could eat lunch with one person, whom would it be?

A: Bono from U2. I have also admired him and his humanitarian mission.

Q: Which woman would you choose to have on U.S. currency?

A: Rosa Parks

Q: What advice would you give to a girl who right now wants to be just like you?

A: I would tell her that first and foremost, you CAN do math. I stunk at math when I was young, I only got better and realized my passion when I started teaching. Once I understood why it all worked, I loved it. Second is that making mistakes are fine. MATH…. Mistakes Allow Thinking to Happen – MATH.

Bonus Question: What question would you ask the next Modern Day Trailblazer we interview?

A: If you could work in any profession, what would it be now?

Fun Facts:

  • The last book Katie read was Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
  • Her go-to karaoke song “I Will Survive” by ABBA.
  • She is usually early.
  • Katie’s favorite quote is “You are never a loser until you quit trying” by Mike Ditka.
  • She’s currently binge watching any true crime documentary or Fixer Upper.