Name: Ms. Ali Starkweather
Hometown: Carbondale, Illinois
School: Johnson Elementary, Franklin Special School District
Grades Taught: K-4
Average # of Students per Class: 20, Physical Education 5 days a week
What do you love most about teaching? I have always had a love for children, and this is my No. 1 reason for being an educator. We recently started a bowling unit in class. Seeing my students accomplish a goal they have set—or for the little ones, getting that first strike—is really what I love most about teaching. When their eyes light up and when they jump for joy after accomplishing something, it really melts my heart and brings me joy.
What would someone see if they were to walk into your classroom? They would see all students actively engaged in what is being learned that day. I take pride in respecting my students and teaching them the importance of sportsmanship. They know that Ms. Starkweather’s rule is this: “As long as you are minding your manners, doing your work, and helping others if needed, you may talk, dance, and have fun in class”. For example, one day in first grade, I had the gym broken up into stations. One station was shooting at a modified basketball goal. One particular student had never made a basket on a real goal before. Each time it was this student’s turn to shoot, I could hear all the students giving encouraging praises like the following: “You can do it!” and “You got it this time!” When this student did make their first basket, the entire class stopped and cheered for them without any direction from me. I think it made my day more than the student who made the shot! The encouragement I see my students give their peers on a daily basis is important, and I think this would be quite apparent to any class observer.
What are you most proud of regarding your Physical Education program? I am very proud of my students at all skill levels. I try to express this to them whenever possible. I always tell them this: “I will never be disappointed in you if you try your hardest. Give it your all, and I will always be proud of you.” I hope teaching them this will instill a lifelong message that they aren’t going to be perfect at everything they do but that they should always try their hardest because with hard work and dedication a lot can be accomplished.
What advice would you give a new Physical Education teacher? I love talking to new Physical Educators. I feel we help each other. New teachers have a special motivating determination in their eyes. I love seeing their excitement. I would tell them to remember that not all lessons are going to go the way they are planned, and that’s okay! The students only know that your lesson didn’t work if you let them know it didn’t. Make your plan, teach it, and if it doesn’t work, then fix or modify it for the next lesson and/or next day. I would tell them not to stress too much over something that isn’t working. Everyone makes mistakes, and students also need to know teachers aren’t perfect. Learning from mistakes is a critical part of any perceived “failure.” I would also tell them that, in the right circumstance and setting, it is also fine to admit to students that something is not working. This lets students know its okay to make mistakes as long as you correct the mistake and learn from it.
Favorite Lesson: Pickleball Unit: My new favorite activity to teach is Pickleball. As a student growing up, I had an amazing Physical Education teacher. In middle school, she taught us the game of Pickleball. It was something I always enjoyed and looked forward to. Last year, I decided to teach my third- and fourth-grade students the game. Since I was taught at a middle school age, I wasn’t sure if my third- and fourth-grade students could handle it. I started off slowly with skills (of course), really focusing on the serve. My rationale was if they could master their serves, then they could master the game. As is often the case, my students exceeded my expectations, and they loved it!
I taped off the floor into four modified courts that equally fit in my teaching space. I taught them the rules and let them play with a partner of their choice. They played “mini games” for a couple of days, really focusing on the rules. After seeing how much they were enjoying it (even the lower-skilled students who usually don’t like most team activities were having fun!), I decided it was time for a doubles tournament. I made a double elimination bracket for each class. They were so excited each day about it. They would come into class and look at the bracket and/or look to see whom they played next, depending on who won or lost a game. I plan to teach this every year.
Name: Robin P. Farrar
Hometown: Lynnville, TN
School: Richland Elementary
Grades Taught: PreK-5th
Average # students per class: 20
What do you love most about teaching? I love that the students are excited to come to my class. It’s so easy to teach when students are motivated. Their excitement encourages me to seek new, challenging activities and games.
What would someone see if they were to walk in your classroom? Students that are happy, respectful, energetic, ready to learn and definitely ready to run! Students are learning new skills, participating in moderate to vigorous exercises and problem solving.
What are you most proud of regarding your Physical Education program? I am most proud of being a coordinator for Jump Rope for Heart. In the past 15 years, Richland Elementary students, along with our community, have raised over $52,000 for the American Heart Association. Jumping rope has many benefits. Jumping rope is a lifelong skill that is affordable, builds agility and quickness, and also burns calories.
What advice would you give a new Physical Education teacher? My advice would be to smile at your students, be enthusiastic about your teaching and show the students you care for them. Last but not least, let the students have fun while still learning lifelong skills.