Other than studying Civic Education and Philosophy as a senior at Emory & Henry College, flags, rifles, and sabres occupy most of Hannah Kestner’s free time. Kestner has been instructing the color guards and winter guards of local schools since 2017. Currently, she instructs color guard at Tennessee High School and Virginia High School.
Kestner was a member of the color guard herself during high school, but never thought much about teaching others until the opportunity to assist in teaching at Marion Senior High School was presented to her during her last year of school.
“At first I was like, ‘Huh, who knew?” because I always thought it was one of those things that I would do in the future, but I didn’t expect to do it right after high school,” Kestner said. “I think it quickly changed, from ‘Haha, this is cool! I like color guard!’ to … I really got into it for the kids.”
She explained that she began choreographing for color guard for fun, but creating work for competitions was a brand new experience.
“When I actually had to start choreographing, it was a little nerve-wracking. Just, because you don’t want your kids to not have good work and then you feel like you’re the reason they’re not successful,” she said. “I always try to trust my gut. I go with my gut, and then ask for feedback..”
What she loves most about instructing is getting to build relationships with the guard members and helping them achieve their goals, while also having fun.
“While we’re competitive, first and foremost I try to make sure that they’re comfortable at rehearsal, that it’s a place where they’re not afraid to be themselves, and that they can leave their other stressors at the door and focus on guard together,” she said. “It’s always rewarding to see when they feel successful.”
Along with creating and teaching all of the choreography for both of her color guards, Kestner is currently a full time student at E&H. It keeps her busy, but she says teaching guard has never negatively impacted her academic life.
“You definitely have to prioritize. Honestly, I would say that it motivates me to do better at school. If I couldn’t have handled it, I know I would’ve had to have given it up. Plus, it never hurts to be a good influence to the kids,” she said.
After she graduates from E&H in the spring, Kestner plans to go to VCU to pursue her Masters in social work. She hopes to continue teaching color guard part time while there, but being a full time color guard instructor isn’t what she wants to do for her career.
“After grad school, I’ll probably go down to having one program, and then I’ll just do it for fun on the side,” she said. “I also think that if I went full time and tried to rely on that just to survive, that I would end up hating. I want to be able to enjoy it.”
Before becoming an instructor, Kestner was a member of the Carolina Gold Drum and Bugle Corps’ color guard for three seasons, and is currently a member of Etude Winter Guard.