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 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 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! :)