At NC State, unusual, engaging fitness classes surface from the list of courses that meet the 200-level GEP requirement. These are the courses that cause students to pause when scrolling through MyPack and consider, for just a few moments, how unusual it would be to fit in a course like HESO 258 Basic Rock Climbing or HESO 262 Introductory White Water Canoeing among their other classes. If you ask Matthew Rever, any subject matter is teachable.Rever, a senior lecturer in the Department of Health and Exercise Studies, has worked at NC State since the year 2000. With a short, lightly colored beard and a stocky build, Rever could easily be just starting his 30’s instead of edging into his 50’s. At 47, the athletic instructor has taught many of the 200-level courses in the category of “that’s offered here?”“I teach just about everything that we offer here with a few exceptions,” Rever said. “The teaching principles are the same as far as how you teach someone a physical sport or a physical action. It’s just that you have to learn about the activity first and then be able to transmit the information.”
This semester, Rever teaches eight hours’ worth of classes each week. Two one-hour swim conditioning classes, one one-hour indoor group cycling class and one one-hour target archery class make up half of Rever’s required hours. The remaining four hours are dedicated to two two-hour courses centered around Rever’s true passion: scuba.“I was a scuba instructor long before I got into the field of education,” Rever said. “I had a background in teaching, but it wasn’t a primary vocation. It was more of an avocation, something I really enjoyed doing.”Rever said he enjoys teaching HESA 226, Skin and Scuba Diving I, in part because of how much time a two-hour course allows him to spend with his students. Around 80 minutes of class time is dedicated to the water, where students start with the basics of scuba and work their way up to a chance at full scuba certification at the end of each semester.“It gives them a break away from the rigors of their other academic schedule, their major, their program,” Rever said. “I really hope that, when they come into a class like scuba or archery or group cycling, they don’t feel like they are necessarily in a class, but that they’re learning how to participate in the subject matter.”Rever found his love for diving at the age of many of his current students. As a freshman at the University of South Carolina, he joined a sports club centered around diving, which led to becoming a rescue diver and then an assistant scuba instructor.“My original program undergrad was history,” Rever said. “We didn’t really specialize per say, but I tried to focus more on Civil War history and primarily maritime history. If there was something that I could, in my research projects or classes, twist to get the naval aspect of the Civil War, I would do that because I would dive on Civil War shipwrecks. It made a very personal connection with me as far as turning the dives into some research or a paper.”After graduating, Rever stayed in Columbia, South Carolina, and started working restaurant jobs until his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rever said his mother’s diagnosis is what lead him to pursue a career in the two fields, scuba and teaching, that he loved.“If you don’t love what you are doing, you need to find what it is that you love to do; otherwise, you won’t find happiness and be at peace with what you are doing,” Rever said. “It [the diagnosis] provided me the stimulus that I needed to pursue something that I wanted more.”Rever left the restaurant business behind and, in the late 90s, used his diving instruction credentials to become a graduate assistant at East Carolina University, where he pursued a sports science degree. Soon after, a job announcement for NC State came across his desk and brought him to where he is now.
Rever said when he teaches scuba, he’s really teaching a behavioral change. For example, a skill taught in HESA 226 is breathing underwater, which is both one of the core skills needed to scuba dive and very unnatural to untrained divers.“It’s forcing you to have the same comfort level underwater as you do on the surface,” Rever said. “Most often, that’s a very difficult skill for students to pick up on because it’s not anything that they have done before in their life. The behavior change occurs when, through repetition, they become equally as comfortable and then they look at the entire event, not as someone who is trying to survive underwater, but as someone who more or less belongs underwater and is comfortable enough to feel that way.”The lessons taken from a skill-oriented mindset don’t disappear when students leave the Carmichael pools. Priscilla Lunsford, a graduate student studying industrial engineering, said lessons taught in her scuba courses at NC State have not been forgotten.“I apply scuba techniques to everything in life,” Lunsford said. “Coach Rever is super meticulous and very detail-oriented, which is something that you watch and you learn. He’ll make sure that you need to learn those skills so we can take our scuba skills out into the water and not mess up. Industrial engineering is all about efficiency, so I think about scuba all the time in my major.”For Rever, teaching is a two-way street. Rever said he learns something from each new semester of students and that he feels indebted to the Wolfpack community in more ways than one. In June 2016, Rever’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia and support for him and his family came from all over.“My students, other faculty, administration and staff came together for us,” Rever said. “To this day, my old students still ask about him and offer well wishes. I can honestly say I know the power of the Pack.”