Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reflections as the 2013 National Elementary PE Teacher of the Year

The last time I entered a blog on my PE website was definitely way too long ago.
It has been a very busy year...

Without a doubt, this past year of being honored as the 2013 National Elementary PE Teacher of the Year created a whirl wind of activities, experiences, and opportunities for me that I will forever treasure and be grateful for as an educator. This blog is long overdue, and if I could have kept up with it throughout the year, it would have contained snippets of the many great adventures and experiences I was fortunate to be a part of this past year. As it was, I am extremely grateful that I was able to juggle and manage the schedule that I kept from summer through early spring, while maintaining the high level of quality physical education and teaching I have come to expect from myself for my students. More than any other aspect of the experiences I have had leading up to the teaching honor, I am most proud of the opportunities for physical activity and lifetime wellness I have been able to share with my students throughout the years. I have a huge appreciation for all the lessons my students have taught me along the way. I continue to grow as an educator, and I am most thankful for the great students, staff, administrators, and families I have had the pleasure of working with during my 24 years of teaching in Cedarburg, WI.

I consider myself fortunate to have surrounded myself with great mentors and role models who have supported me throughout my journey. It is difficult to acknowledge everyone who has made such significant contributions to my personal life and to my teaching, but I feel it is important to recognize those that have helped to shape my career and my love for teaching students. It is with deep gratitude that I thank all who have been a part of this journey with me! My mom and dad were my earliest supporters, fostering a love of being active outdoors and taking my three sisters and I camping and hiking in the Tetons each summer. That love of being outdoors and being involved in physical activity and sports lead me to receiving my undergraduate degree at UW-LaCrosse and spending my summers working with kids at a camp in New Hampshire. I am deeply grateful to my mom for the scholarship opportunity I received through her work, which helped me receive my PE/Health degree. My mom passed away suddenly in the second month of my teaching career back in 1990, and I often wished I could share my teaching experiences with her and thank her again and again for the opportunity I received courtesy of her. It only took 23 years, but I like to think that the honor I received was in part a huge thank you in her memory.

My sisters (Mary, Carol, and Ann) survived playing and practicing jump rope skills, cartwheels and tumbling skills, tennis, volleyball, softball, basketball, canoeing, and countless backyard games with me, suffering only one black eye and a few other bruises along the way! I have great memories of those early experiences, and I thank you for always being there for me throughout my years of teaching! My UW-LaCrosse and UW-Whitewater professors hold a place very dear to my heart for all they did to prepare me as a teacher, and for helping me to seek out best practices in my teaching. To all my PE and educational colleagues, from my early years at Webster Middle School, my traveling years shuttling between CHS and Weslawn Elementary School, and now at Thorson, I would not be where I am today without the influences and impact you have all had on me. Leta, Jack, Dean...Sandy, Chris, Brian, Trent, Dave, AnnMarie...Josh, Kelly...Renee, Megan....Janice, Beth L, Gil, Tom, Krista, Deb, Allen, Helen, Ann I, Stef E, Wendy, Beth F, Judy, Kelly, and all my great Thorson colleagues, as well as all the CHS/Webster coaches I have worked with and learned from over the years...thanks for sharing the vision of what quality physical education/education should look like in our district and striving for that together! I love my Thorson family...you are all truly dedicated, hard working educators, and I feel so fortunate to have spent the past 11 years with all of you! I am deeply grateful, as well, for all the great coaching experiences I have had with my best friend, Kathy, (how many teams did we coach??) and for all the philosophical talks we have had about teaching, wellness, and finding meaning in one's life.

To my Twitter/WHPE/Midwest AAHPERD/National Wellness Institute and 2013 National TOY friends...Amanda, Matt, Jo, Penny, Sarah, Andy, Nathan, Jarrod, Mike, Joey, Adam, Brenda, Rosie, Kris, Keith, Nicole, Jon, Eileen, Crystal, Marcia, Chris, Brian M, Brett, Lori, Kristi, Jeff, Dan, Nathalie, Jan, Khyl, Ryan, Sandy, Jackie, Joanne, Mike, Darlene, Tammy, Linda, Marla, Melissa, Jim, Karen, Susan, Jennifer, Perry, Scott, Sandy, Marcy, Ret, Carol, Billie, Sara, Chris, Dana, Shanen, Tabitha, Deb, Karen, Charla, Jason Bu, Tari, Lisa, Amber, Susan T, Jason Br, Andrea, Susan S, Jeff, Sarah, Mary Lou, Sue...CSD Wellness Committee...and many, many more...I am so proud to be a physical educator working side by side with all of you in what I consider one of the most important careers of all, teaching students how to lead healthy lives and how to advocate for themselves as they navigate the choices and decisions required of them today. I know this list is not even close to complete and there are SO many more I could add...it just truly shows me how valuable all of you have been throughout the journey of my career!

To my students, families, and administrators...I have had so many great experiences working with all of you. Nothing warms my heart more than running into former students and parents, and catching up on what direction your lives have taken them since your elementary/MS/HS years. Quite simply, I have become a better teacher by working with all of you. Thank you for pushing me to be my best, for inspiring me, for challenging me through your curiosity to learn, letting me learn through my mistakes, and for being willing to learn with me when I have stepped outside my comfort zone to teach you how to step outside of yours! Frank, Scott, Daryl, Jon, Sue R, Bill H, Jay G, Brian S, Al S, Lynn R, Karen N, Kandy G, Joanne S, Carol H, Eric D, Fredrika, Conrad and Todd...I thank you for the mentoring you have given me and for your leadership and support of me as an educator. I truly appreciate your support of PE/Health/Wellness in our district, and thank you for helping to foster and nurture my leadership skills throughout the years. Frank and Sue, twenty four years ago, you called and asked me to fly home from New Hampshire for an interview in Cedarburg! My life forever changed that fateful summer in 1990 when you hired me as a physical educator in Cedarburg School District! I can only imagine how different my life may have been if you had not given me the opportunity you did. Thank you.

This past year I had the chance to present across the country with Charla Tedder Parker (2013 HS PE TOY) and Jason Busche (2013 MS PE TOY) in WI, Indiana, Kansas, NY, Texas, New Jersey, Missouri, and Colorado. Thank you to Sportime/SPARK and AAHPERD for all that you did to make this an experience of a lifetime! One of the best parts of this whole experience has been the opportunity to network with other PE teachers across the country and to build new relationships with educators who are striving to implement great quality physical education programs in their states. The friendships and relationships I have built with them will last a lifetime, and mean the world to me. My students are and will be the biggest beneficiaries of all these amazing connections I have made this year, and through the experiences I have had this past year.

Thank you for being a part of my journey! I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead...the best is yet to come! :)



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thorson Elementary Wellness Corner- December : Emotional Wellness

Thorson Wellness Corner
December: Emotional Wellness

In today’s fast-paced society, students are faced with an enormous range of stressors to navigate in their young lives. It is important for students to develop strong resiliency skills throughout their childhood to help them learn to cope with change, hardships, and challenges that will help foster a strong level of emotional wellness they can tap into throughout their lives.

Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., MS Ed, FAAP, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP),  and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) authored A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings. Their book provides a great resource to help parents and caregivers build resilience in children, teens, and young adults. Dr. Ginsburg has identified seven “C”s of resilience: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control.

One of the C’s that lends itself well to many community, home, and school activities this month is Contribution. Whether it is through the Thorson Elementary School/Kapco Toy Drive, helping a neighbor shovel their sidewalk, or through spending quality time with loved ones, students can gain a sense of emotional well-being from contributing their time and/or resources to helping others, through random acts of kindness or otherwise. “Children need to realize that the world is a better place because they are in it. Understanding the importance of personal contribution can serve as a source of purpose and motivation.” Children learn how to contribute by:

· Understanding that many people in the world do not have what they need
· Learning to serve others by observing others modeling generosity
· Having opportunities to contribute in some specific way



Winter Physical Activity Tips for Thorson Students and Families

Thorson Elementary School 
Physical Education
Building a Strong, Healthy, and Fit 
School Community

Making Family Time an Active Time
Tips for Getting Kids More Physically Active

Children and teens should be moderately active for at least 60 minutes on most, if not all, days, and vigorously active at least 30 minutes 3-4 days a week. One of the best ways to to encourage physical activity is through active family time!

When the whole family is involved in physical activities together, children learn that being active is fun, healthy, makes them feel good, and helps improves their academic learning.

Thorson students have been busy learning about the benefits of physical activity throughout the school year.  
Physical activity:
· Increases fitness levels and keeps the heart and lungs strong and healthy.
· Builds and maintains healthy bones and stronger muscles.
· Increases overall strength and endurance.
· Helps control weight to decrease the risk of many diseases.
· Stimulates the brain and contributes to academic success.
· Boosts energy and promotes sound sleep.
· Helps you feel good about yourself and promotes positive emotional well-being.
· Relieves stress and provides a way to connect to family and friends.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thorson's 10th Annual JRFH/HFH Event = Huge Success!


2013 Thorson Elementary JRFH/HFH Wrap-up
Thorson students did an OUTSTANDING job participating in this year's Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart event! 
It was so much fun! Glow in the Dark shooting, hula hooping, and jump roping continues to be a big hit with Thorson students, along with all the other great basketball and jump rope activities! 
20130307_120828.jpgA very special thank you goes out to Melissa Stowers, Michelle Pries, Stacy Mose, Kristen Hurt, and John Winter, as well as the CHS Varsity Basketball teams and ALL the fabulous parent and student volunteers who came to help out! Thank you so much for helping to make this a great event for our students! 
During this year's JRFH/HFH event, Thorson recognized and honored six students and younger siblings who have already had to deal with heart health issues/surgeries and stroke issues in their short lives. These families and all the other loved ones that we jumped in honor and in memory of are a big part of why it is so important to share JRFH/HFH at our school. Students learn some fun facts about their heart, how it functions, and why it is so important to be active, get enough sleep, and eat healthy. Upper elementary students learn about risk factors for heart disease and what can be done to prevent the factors they can control. They also use pedometers and heart rate monitors to help understand the connections between physical activity and heart health, and to learn more about resting and target heart rates.
This year Thorson students and families raised $12,457.50 for American Heart Association! Truly awesome and beyond words! Jack Z., Kale K., and Maddie M. were the top three fundraiser for Thorson this year, and will have the opportunity to attend the Milwaukee Bucks game on March 24th as well as participate in the pre-game festivities. Congratulations, Jack, Kale, and Maddie! Mrs. Gibson, Thorson Elementary Principal, and I will soon be dressing up like the AHA Super Hero Duck to congratulate the students for their efforts!
After ten years of participating in Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart, Thorson Elementary School has raised over $115,000 for American Heart Association! 



Friday, December 7, 2012

Encouraging Kids to be Physically Active

Third-Fifth Grade PE Physical Activity Calendar
Third, fourth, and fifth grade students are currently working on tracking their physical activity outside of school. They have received a 4 week physical activity calendar to help keep a log of activities they have participated in, and students also have a daily suggested activity to try out as well.

Check out the calendar to learn more about the physical activity assignment. Physical Activity Calendars are due by Friday, January 4th. Be sure to keep them in a safe place during winter break!

SPARK PE recently shared a blog post about how parents can encourage kids to be physically active. Check it out!                 SPARK PE- Encouraging Kids to be Physically Active

Monday, December 3, 2012

Family Candlelight Snowshoe Night





Family Candlelight Snowshoe/Hike Night
Friday, January 11th     6:30-8:00pm

Come explore Thorson’s Nature Center and enjoy the stars at night while participating in a family candlelight snowshoe night. In the event of no snow, the featured activity will be a candlelight hike.

Dress appropriately for the outdoor adventure with a winter coat, hat and mittens, snow pants, and a pair of boots. Chili, cornbread, and juice will be served that night.

Sign up for the event ASAP so that we can plan to have enough snowshoes and chili available for all who are interested.

Cost to participate is $5 per family. 

Save the Date- Family Wellness Night Friday, February 1st

More information to follow! 
Mark your calendars!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cooperative Learning in Physical Education


21st Century Skills in Physical Education- The Cooperative Activities Unit

In education today, all curriculum areas in school encourage 21st century skills with students. 

Critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, or the four C’s, are one aspect of 21st century skills we strive to teach our students. Educators also focus on making learning rigorous, relevant, and meaningful for students.

In physical education this quarter, Thorson Elementary students had a chance to develop 21st century skills in the Cooperative Activities unit. Through a variety of cooperative, problem solving challenges, students developed their communication, problem solving, and collaboration skills. Students learned that there are often many creative solutions to problems/challenges, and had multiple opportunities to practice appropriate conflict management skills. Students had a chance to develop and build their leadership and people skills, as well as demonstrate social and personal responsibility.

Through multiple cooperative activities this past quarter, students learned what it takes to work through challenges as a group, and how to manage and learn from situations that arise. It was awesome to see creative problem solving happen before my eyes, as I watched students work together to find solutions to challenges they were given! These activities provided some of the most important teachable moments that I can share with students about how choices and decisions they make and follow through on affect more than just themselves, and how important communication and problem solving skills are for all areas of their life. 

Communication and critical thinking skills are essential tools that helped Thorson students succeed in these cooperative activities in PE, but even more importantly, students have begun to build a foundation of thinking and problem solving skills they will be able to use throughout their lifetime.

To learn more about the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, check out this link.