Last week, we spoke with Sally Schulte, the K-12 PE Lead for the Wentzville School District in Missouri. This week, we wrap up our final week of Teacher Appreciation Month with Karalee Peercy, a second-grade teacher at Lapel Elementary School in Lapel, Indiana. Peercy, always a fan of learning, combines many of her talents and hobbies into fun, intuitive ways to teach her students new skills. We hope you enjoy what she has to say about teaching!
Q: Why did you want to become a teacher?
A: Teaching combines some of my favorite things and was the only career where I felt like I could use all of my talents together. I love learning and always have. This love of learning has led to many hobbies and it seems I can find a way to incorporate those into my classroom! I always have enjoyed leadership and leading children is much more comfortable than leading adults for me. I am creative and I use this daily in the classroom. I can use art, music, technology, science, literature, math, writing, and more each day! I wanted to be so many things growing up and with teaching it’s like being all of them each day. It’s NEVER boring. Lastly, I had great educators through school who inspired me to be like them. I have taught alongside many of them and am proud to still have them as my mentors. I hope to have the same impact on my students.
Q: What is the number one way you inspire your students to become better, healthier learners?
A: My goal each school year is to create a safe environment where my kids feel like they can be risk takers and be themselves. I always tell them that taking risks is how you learn, which oftentimes results in failure. Failing teaches us to persevere and succeed. If they feel comfortable then they are willing to take risks and aren’t afraid of failure. I also try to make learning exciting and fun! I am constantly thinking up new ideas that will engage my students. Engaged learners will pay attention and try because they want to rather than have to. Some of our favorites are learning about tallies, graphing, and data with a competitive OREO stack, learning about snowflakes from Snowflake Bentley and creating “snow” indoors through a fun science experiment, and playing games such as Jenga and Twister to help review a concept.
Q: From your perspective, how impactful is daily movement breaks to students ability to focus?
A: I believe that movement is necessary to refocus the body and brain. I know that as an adult I need a change of scenery once in a while to regain my focus. I also believe that movement can look different in each classroom. In my room it sometimes means switching to the floor or small group table. Sometimes it might be a short song that we sing or dance to. It might even be a two-minute chat with a classmate across the room about what we are learning. I think they are less likely to tune out if they have a chance to move around. I also think that if they know this is part of the routine then they have a better mindset about starting new lessons.
Q: What is a key challenge to engaging your students with physical activity during the school day?
A: The biggest challenge for us in Indiana is the weather! We do not have a lot of extra space in our school to have indoor recess, so when the weather is bad we are often in our rooms for recess. It is still a break, but it’s not quite the same as getting fresh air and running around. When we are indoors we need to be careful to not be too loud because other classrooms might be having instructional time. We share our play areas with other grades, so space is sometimes limited. This was one of the huge reasons we were looking into painting games and activities on our playground. These activities have allowed our kids to spread out on the playground more and engage in more active play!
Q: How often do your students have access to recess time or physical activity?
A: All students have access to at least 30 minutes of recess each day. My grade level has about 45 minutes per day split into three times. We are fortunate to have plenty of recess times at my school. When the weather is nice, this time is always spent outdoors.
Q: Do you find that there are enough choices for physical activity opportunities and equipment that are suitable for your students?
A: Now that we have our painted playground I do feel like there are plenty of opportunities for our students. There is equipment to climb on, basketball goals for organized play, grassy areas for creative playing and running, swings and slides, and now beautiful games such as 4-square, hopscotch, nature circuit paths, tessellation mazes, numbers, letters, and more. Our students are being physical, but they are also learning other important skills such as cooperation and creativity. They have learned about turn taking, making up games, and winning and losing. These activities have helped spread out the children on the playground as well.
Q: What is the most memorable moment you can remember in your teaching career?
A: It is hard to pick out one moment because there is something memorable it seems each day! However, a few years back I had a student join my classroom knowing very little to no English. This is not very common at my school and I did not have experience teaching a child our language as well as teaching them how to read. I was very worried that I would not succeed with this child and that I was not the right person for the job. Towards the end of the school year I remember wondering how we got as far as we did. We understood each other perfectly and this child was reading and keeping up with the rest of the class. This experience made me realize how much of an impact learning can have on young children. I can’t imagine going to another country and learning their language and curriculum in a few months and being able to communicate effectively! Children really are pretty amazing and just need to be given the right experiences.
Thank you, Karalee, for all that you do for teaching and for your students. In particular, the story about the non-English-speaking student in your classroom that grew and learned so much over the period of a year really touched us. It’s teachers like you that inspire Teacher Appreciation Month, and also inspires us to do what we do here at Fit and Fun Playscapes. We thank you with all our heart!
What is your most memorable moment in the classroom? Let us know!