Molly O’Keefe, Physical Education Teacher at East Hill Elementary

Educator Of The Month
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1. Tell me about your background and how you came to be a physical education teacher?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher at a young age, and PE was the best fit for my personality. I like to be outside, be active and have fun with my students. Like most PE teachers, I was involved in sports for most of my life, but it was more about the friendships I made and the lessons I learned about hard work, perseverance, successes and failures that led me in the direction towards teaching and coaching. I graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in Health and Exercise Science and I have a teaching certificate in both Health and PE. I obtained my Masters from Syracuse University. I like to keep up with the current trends in PE to make it exciting, creative and fresh.

2. What have you learned from teaching physical education remotely?
All elementary buildings in West Genesee are in-person, five days a week. However, I did teach remotely from March 16th until June 19th. The most important part of teaching online was maintaining relation-ships with the students. We did prepare “online” activities. They involved physical activity with household items, encouraged family fitness activities, promoted local hiking trails, bike loops, etc. I tried to get on all of the classroom teachers’ Zoom meetings at least once or twice a week. It was very important for the social-emotional connection with students.

3. What is the most fun/most challenging grade to teach physical education?
Kindergarten in September is absolutely the most challenging to teach. Students are coming into kindergarten with extremely diverse backgrounds and balancing all of their needs at 4 and 5 years of age. It is a bit of a circus in the beginning of the year. Once routines are established and expectations are learned, it is a much smoother ride. But September is definitely an adventure!

4. Because there are less job opportunities for someone wanting to be a physical education teacher, what advice would you give someone to stand out?
Great question, and I have had a lot of student-teachers ask this. My advice is to really pay attention to your students and get to know them. Most PE teachers can teach the lessons, play the games and be organized and motivating, but what will set them apart from others is paying attention to our students’ needs, likes/dislikes and challenges. We have the advantage of seeing our students two times a week for their entire elementary school lives. In West Genesee, that’s six years if they start in kindergarten and continue through fifth grade. We know when they come in happy, sad, mad or quiet. We communicate our observations and/or concerns to classroom teachers, school counselors, school therapists, etc. This creates the team effort we need to make our students’ educational experience the most positive, healthy and caring place it can be.

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