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Name: Tracy Krause
The most innovative activity I am involved with is the Outdoor Academy program at Tahoma High School. My district is very progressive and has coveted integrated learning as a critical component to improving student learning for many years. For over fifteen years we have had a very successful program (Endeavor) which takes advantage of a six period block schedule (three periods meeting every other day) to integrate language arts, science, and social students. The data shows that students in integrated programs are more successful in school. We believe it is because of the relationships which develop in this type of environment.
Five years ago we brought an idea to our principal that would tap into the idea of integrated learning. The idea was given the okay to proceed and became the Outdoor Academy. It is a sophomore class of 84 students. Students receive credit for science, language arts, and physical education. Outdoor recreation is the common theme and our units are set up around fly-fishing, hiking, biking, rock climbing and stewardship.
Our language arts teacher, Jamie Vollrath, uses texts such as Old Man and the Sea, A River Runs Through It, Into Thin Air, and Into the Wild to teach concepts intended for 10th grade students. Our science teacher, Mike Hanson, uses water quality testing, aquatic invertebrates, evolution, body systems, and the environment to teach experimental design, the 10th grade science focus. The integration occurs when the three of us plan our units together. For example, while I am teaching fly casting and fly tying, Mike is teaching water quality and aquatic insects, and Jamie is teaching A River Runs Through It. We are able to take our students into the field several time each month to participate in real science, become environmental stewards (plant trees, trail maintenance), and learn what it means to be conscientious users of public lands.
Working together as teachers is very powerful and the result is a quality program which meets the needs of our students. The data shows our students; do better academically in school, enjoy school more, and are more successful on the high stakes tests required by our state. It is an added benefit that our students are being exposed to the outdoors and are learning what it means to become responsible citizens.
My expertise in teaching physical education would be outdoor education and integration. I am a strong believer in using physical education as a way to get kids excited about school. We have students who come into our program and are only coming to school to be with their friends. They have no intention of getting anything out of their classes. They have never connected with academics. I see these students getting excited about the outdoors and making their first connection to school in a long time. Then they read a book about it (sometimes their first full book!) and they are reading because they enjoy it. It makes me feel like we are making a difference.
Going through the National Board process required me to take a hard look at assessment and student learning. That experience, along with my work at the state level revising our classroom based assessments for health and fitness, has helped to develop assessment as a strength in my teaching.
Our creed in the Tahoma High School Health and Fitness department is "Preparing All for Lifelong Fitness". I have always had trouble putting words to what I believe is my job. I will quote my colleague at Tahoma, Jeana Haag (Washington State HS PE Teacher of the Year 2007), who says, "We are developing students who will be independent in their fitness and lead an active lifestyle". That sums up what I believe is our job as physical educators. Not that our students have simply been active during the time we have them but when they leave our programs they also have a foundation of skills/concepts necessary to be physically fit and successful into the future.
I want that success for all of the students in our district. I take a great deal of pride in knowing that we have four great teachers in our program at Tahoma High School that hold to the same beliefs that I do. Tom Milligan is a product of Tahoma schools and bleeds blue and gold. He has played a huge role in developing a quality program at our school including the implementation of sport education and the tactical approach to teaching skills. Alyssa Hurt is in her first year at Tahoma but is already contributing her ideas and work ethic. Jeana Haag is a leader at the district and state level and is also National Board Certified. We have been able to work together to develop our philosophy for quality physical education. Without their hard work I would not have this opportunity.
To me being a Teacher of the Year means that I have been recognized by my peers not only as a quality educator but as an advocate for quality physical education. It has been a very humbling and rewarding experience. I have had the chance to meet and talk with many passionate health and physical education teachers from across our country. The experience has encouraged me to become more of an advocate for change in our profession.
I believe it is my responsibility to provide a quality physical education experience for my students. My district has been very supportive of health and physical education which as allowed me to influence not only the students in my class and in my school but in our district and state as well.
We are working to build a K-12 curriculum for fitness concepts in our district and have been given the responsibility of constructing our own professional development leading to the implementation of the curriculum. This will ensure that students in the Tahoma School District will graduate with the critical components required to live a healthy and active life regardless of which teacher they have. This work has been extremely satisfying to me as my own children attend Tahoma schools.
I am also fortunate to be part of a group of outstanding Washington physical educators, who under the leadership of Pam Tollefson and Lisa Rakoz from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, have been developing, revising, and implementing classroom based assessments for health and physical education. This comes at a critical time when high stakes testing in "core" classes threatens our ability to teach the whole child. If not for the work of our state leaders I fear quality physical education for all could fall to the side as administrators become more and more focused on their students meeting standard in the core areas.
I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with many pre-service teachers from colleges across our state. It is work I enjoy because I feel I learn as much from them as they will from me. The future of our students depends on the quality of physical educators we turn out. I feel optimistic for the future of our profession based on the outstanding young people I have had the privilege to work with.
Curriculum Mapping: How to develop a quality K-12 fitness concepts curriculum in your district. What are the tough questions that we need to ask to get started on the road to a successful district wide curriculum? Who are the people we need to have in the room and how do we get them there? What makes a quality curriculum? How do we fund it? These are some of the questions we had to ask in the Tahoma School District. I will share the process and the outcomes of our journey. You will leave with access to what we created to use as a resource for your own work.
Outdoor Academy: Integrating Physical Education with Language Arts and Science The data shows that students are more successful academically when curriculum is integrated. I will share data collected from the students in our sophomore Outdoor Academy class and how we use outdoor recreation to get students excited about school and on their way to leading an active, healthy and fit life.
Casting for Credit: How to teach fly-fishing to your students I will share with you how I used The School of Fly-fishing's materials to develop a standards based curriculum that teaches young people to fly-fish, tie their own flies, and develop an outdoor ethic.