What do you do at SCH?
I am the department chair of physical education at SCH and I teach primarily in the Lower School for Girls. I currently coach field hockey and softball in Middle School and have also coached in Upper School. My goal when teaching is to instill an appreciation for physical activity and help students understand the importance and benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. I create classes that are fun and motivating, ultimately encouraging students to be physically active outside of school. At SCH, I strive to include technology in the physical education program.
What brought you to teaching PE?
I became a physical education teacher because I love physical activity and sharing my enthusiasm with others. I love to be moving and was never one to sit still. I wanted to be outside or on a court playing any sport. My parents’ encouragement and support made it possible for me to follow my dream. In middle school, I had two female physical educators who encouraged me to pursue my passion and recognized the joy I found when playing on a team. In college, I had a supervising professor that set the bar high and encouraged me not to take the easy road, paving the way for my career.
What do you like about teaching young children?
I love the Lower School students’ enthusiasm, energy, and excitement. No two days are the same. When working with young students, you always have to be “on” and that keeps me “on” my toes. Young children are eager to learn and are not afraid to try a new activity. It is that inquisitive and explorative nature that makes it a joy to work with this age group. Having fun while teaching is important, and teaching in the Lower School allows me to do just that and stay young at heart.
You have been recognized for the inclusion of technology in your teaching. What inspired you to go down this path and how has technology added value to your program?
As Springside began incorporating more and more technology throughout the school, I wanted physical education to be included in the initiative. I began searching the Internet for ways to use technology in PE. During my search, I found that the only information was for heart-rate monitors. This was not going to work for my young students. I realized I would have to develop ways to incorporate technology into physical education with Lower School students on my own. I am fortunate to work with a supportive Innovation and Technology Department who, no matter how crazy my idea might be, will say, “Sure, we can help you do that.” Through their assistance I gained knowledge and confidence and began to be recognized in the physical education world for how I was using technology. I started using a camera and recording student voices on an iPod and making them into short movies. Students loved watching and hearing themselves, and parents appreciated seeing what their child was doing in PE class. This inspired me to continually create and develop lessons that would enhance student learning. Fast forward to 2015 when technology is fully integrated into the physical education program. By designing lessons that incorporate technology, I am able to share with parents what their child is doing and to help students evaluate their performance and be inspired to do their best.
How do you stay current with trends in your field? And what are some of the more important trends?
On a recent snowy day, here is how my day went. I started the day attending a virtual physical education summit. I was able to select from 10 different sessions and hear top speakers in the world of physical education present on a wide range of topics. Then I was part of a roundtable discussion on elementary assessment. Later in the day, I was able to collaborate with some of those same teachers on Voxer as we continued the discussion and shared ideas from our practices. Never has there been a point in time when this instantaneous sharing of information has been so readily available. The next day I participated in a Google hangout with colleagues from South Africa, Hawaii, Wisconsin, and California. I am also a board member of PSAHPERD (Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance). Currently, I am the early childhood representative, and in the past I served as the vice president of physical education. As a board member, I have developed many professional connections. Through these relationships, I am able to learn new ideas and new trends and developments in physical education. I present at the state, district, and national level at both physical education and educational conferences. This is another way for me to constantly learn and exchange ideas. With the increase of type 2 diabetes and obesity in our country, an important trend in physical education is the advocacy for daily, quality physical education. Educating children about physical activity and healthy habits can help with both of these conditions. Another trend is moving away from the traditional team sports model to one that includes more lifelong physical activities and developing physical literacy in children.
What do you hope your students will take away from their PE experience?
I hope that my students will understand and appreciate the benefits of being physically active throughout life. I want students to experience a variety of activities with the intention that they will find one they can participate in for a long time. Experiencing success and having fun while being physically active are key components to my classes. I always say I will not know if I have been a successful teacher until my students are still physically active when they are out of school. Helping young students to develop healthy habits for a lifetime is very rewarding.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your teaching?
The most fulfilling aspect of my teaching occurs a number of years after I have taught a student. It is the moment when a student calls to tell me she is now coaching or is opening a yoga studio, or to let me know she just ran her third marathon. When I hear those stories, I then know that they had a positive experience in physical education. Former students choosing to be physically active on their own after they have graduated from SCH is a highlight. Seeing current students make healthy choices at school and hearing about their physical activities outside of school are the day-to-day highlights of teaching. Being greeted in the hall during a snowstorm by “I got my pedometer over the weekend and I made it to 13,000 steps,” is what it’s all about. When I see the excitement in students’ eyes, then yes, I know I am doing something right.
What do you like about teaching at SCH?
After 28 years at Springside and SCH, what I love about teaching here is the community. It is supportive, creative, and collaborative. I appreciate the support SCH has provided me to continually grow as an educator through professional development. The partnerships formed between faculty, students, and families is truly one of a kind. The culture of “everyone is a learner,” not just the students, is stimulating.
How do you stay in shape?
After 10 knee surgeries, I have found walking, bike riding, and exercising on the elliptical to be the best ways for me to stay in shape. Every day I have a goal of taking 10,000 steps and my average day at SCH is over 20,000 steps (that definitely helps to keep me in shape). As I say to my students, “Ms. Fish loves a challenge,” so here is one you might not know: Over the summer, I zip-lined upside down and backwards while doing a service project in Honduras.