Student: Calli Jon Massengill

Calli Jon Massengill, a special education major at East Carolina University, knew early she had a passion for helping others learn.

“I have always known I wanted to teach and help others,” Massengill said. “I remember being in third grade and learning how to multiply, and when I finished, I got to teach one of my peers how to multiply. I also would take home what I learned in class to my sister who was in kindergarten at the time and try to teach her.”

Also a peer tutor in high school, she expanded her love for education early to make sure it was truly what she wanted. “I thought I would be in a math class,” she said. “I got to the room number and realized it was an EC (exceptional children) class and I fell in love with the class. It just felt so natural.”

Massengill helped paint and decorate a small building for food distribution in Benson, North Carolina.

Massengill helped paint and decorate a small building for food distribution in Benson, North Carolina. (Contributed photo)

Now, Massengill is a student teacher in a special education class at a local elementary school through ECU’s College of Education. “Every single move you make has to be so intentional,” she said. “Each student has their own personal preferences, so it is important to be methodical while also working towards their education goals.”

She is thankful for the opportunities ECU has given her, which is a large reason she decided to attend the university. Being from a small town, she loves the sense of pride people have in representing ECU and the sense of community she has here.

“I knew that I needed to find my family here while being on my own, and the Education Living Learning Community definitely helped me do that,” Massengill said. “I also tried to get really involved on campus as soon as possible.”

As a member of the Honors College, Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy and many other student organizations, Massengill has a full schedule. In addition to on-campus organizations, she volunteers with the Autism Society of North Carolina, in her EC classroom at her hometown church and she tutors underprivileged children.

“ECU is full of great ways to get involved inside and outside of your major,”said  Massengill, who helped with the College of Education’s inaugural Pirate Institute for Rural Aspiring Teacher Educators (PIRATE) Program this summer. “We showed high schoolers the highlights of the College of Education in hopes for them to attend ECU and major in education. I mentor five students and I keep them updated on the college’s events and keep encouraging them.”

Massengill studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, with the College of Education where she was able to conduct research on the positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) behavior management system. While on this trip with her honors mentor, she was also able to teach in classes.

“It was amazing to teach in the Czech Republic, even if it was basic things. I taught about quilts and how they can be meaningful to people. The most difficult part was remembering to pause for the translator and figuring out how to answer the questions children in the class would ask me,” she said.

Massengill feels prepared to enter her career, and she also believes that preparation helped her take on the challenge of teaching in Prague.

“ECU is known to have a great College of Education,” she said. “All of the extra opportunities I have received and knowing I have learned how to become a leader makes me confident in my abilities when I enter my career.”

Senior Teaching Instructor Leigh Belford has “taught me how to instill a love of math into students,” she said. She is grateful for her leadership and help while in the program.

Massengill’s goal is to graduate, teach special education for a few years and ultimately become a principal.

“I would like to apply for a principal’s fellowship which would help pay for my masters in school administration,” she said. “I think having the experience of teaching would help me be a better principal and leader within a school because I understand the teacher’s perspective and can advocate for them.”

Massengill is a Maynard Scholar for the College of Education and a Chancellor’s Fellow in the Honors College.

“I am graduating a year early, so I have an extra year of Honors funding left,” Massengill said. With this extra year, she hopes to earn her Teaching Children in Poverty certificate.

In her personal life, Massengill said she is learning to prioritize self-care. She enjoys playing with her cat named Leo, spending time with friends and family, and baking.

This Pirate wants to instill her love of learning in others.


Name: Calli Jon Massengill

College: College of Education

Majors: Special education, adapted curriculum

Age: 20

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Benson, North Carolina

Hobbies/interests: Taking classes at Orangetheory, baking, spending time with my friends and cat, Leo

Clubs and Organizations: Education Living Learning Community and Community of Scholars, Honors College, ECU Student Conduct Board Hearing Chair, ECU Servire Society inductee, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society member, Pirates for Down Syndrome Awareness member


Favorite hangout: My apartment, Starbucks

Favorite place on campus: College of Education Student Center in the Speight Building

Favorite place to eat: Chick-Fil-A

Favorite class: ASLS2020 (American Sign Language)

Professor who influenced you the most: Mrs. Leigh Belford

Favorite TV show: “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

Favorite band/musician: Taylor Swift

Favorite movie: “Beauty & The Beast”

Favorite app: TikTok


Dream job: North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction

Role models: My late grandfather, John Massengill, and Daughters of Worth Founder Liz Liles

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? I wish I knew how many opportunities ECU has to improve your leadership skills. Programs like the GOLD Leaders program, the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Academy, and ECU Leads are amazing ways to network with like-minded peers, while also working on your own abilities as a leader. Programs like these have helped me grow tremendously during my time at ECU.