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Name: Karen Ricker
Describe one or two of the newest and/or most innovative activities that you do with your students in physical education?
Funtastics is a unique program that the music teacher and I developed for K and 1st grade. The music teacher liked to move her students, but didn't have the space. We put our classes together (every five or six classes), brought a piano into the gym, and began funtastics. We started with the eight basic locomotor movements, and identified songs that matched the movement; such as Skip to My Lou for skipping. The music teacher was able to play the music in any order, and at any speed which required the students to listen.
We expanded the program to include animal walks such as Froggy Went a Courting for the frog jump. I found that this was a great way to add additional fitness to the program as the students moved nonstop for the entire class. We started working on laterality, and have music for left and right, and directions; for example, Deep in the Heart of Texas moves the children to the south wall. We added balls to the movements and I found that some of the children, who may have difficulty with hand dribbling, found success with the addition of music.
Also added were Brain Gym movements such as Six Little Ducks, for midline crossing movements to specific music while stressing the necessity of listening; thus, we also address underlying academic skills. Every year I hold a school-wide field day developed around a theme. A few of the most popular have been: "beach party", "titanic". "survivor", "galactic feet", and "Miss Ricker has a field day" (book themed).
Every four years, we have a Morley Olympic event for the entire school. In 2008 we celebrated the 8th Morley Olympiad. This is a multi-disciplinary event as classes adopt a country, and study about it. The countries walk in dressed in "uniforms (Mexico all wore sombreros and Guatemala all wore baskets on their heads) behind the flags of their nations, followed by a torch entrance in relay formation (prior to the Olympic Day, all students have carried the torch in a classroom walking activity). Students take part in the Olympic oath, and the Olympic Flag is carried in. We have always been able to have local residents who have been Olympic athletes speak about their experience. The children will then participate in activities followed by closing ceremonies.
What is your particular expertise in regard to teaching physical education – what is the focus of your teaching?
The focus of my physical education program is on skill development. Beginning in kindergarten, I try to develop a program that will spiral through 5th grade in all the motor skills and development listed in standard 1. Each grade will revisit the skills but with added difficulty or intensity allowing them to work at their own level of development. Also, nurturing respect for each other and providing opportunities for the students to be active for most of the class time is a major focus of mine. My expertise lies in pushing each child to develop to the best of his or her ability. Classroom management and planning classes that address all the standards in unique, creative ways are areas that I strive to develop to the fullest. I am a great believer in "Learn to move, Move to learn", and work very hard at including underlying physical skills that will help lead to improved classroom academic performance.
What is your philosophy for physical education – what do you believe in?
I must remember that each child is an individual. I accept them where they are and I must challenge the well skilled and at the same time enable the less skilled to experience success in movement. My obligation to the students is to provide a standard based curriculum, a well-managed classroom with high expectations, and a variety of experiences that leads to success for all. If children truly enjoy and value the experience of being physically active, and have been given all the tools they need, then fitness and a healthy lifestyle will remain a lifelong commitment.
What does being a physical education Teacher of the Year mean to you?
I am so proud to have even been nominated by my colleagues who know me best. To be recognized and appreciated for what I consider is just doing what I know is right for my students is "icing on the cake" in my career. I look forward to the opportunity of sharing the importance of a quality physical education program with others, as well as learning from other professionals.
What do you do to help other physical education teachers plan and implement exemplary programs?
After teaching for so many years, I hope I am able to share a "little wisdom" with the fine young people in teaching today. This past year, I was honored to be selected for the Rutz Physical Education Mentoring Program in our school district. This program matches an experienced teacher with a first-year teacher. We communicated via e-mail, reciprocal observations, phone calls, and personal meetings. It was so rewarding to see my mentee grow through the year, both in skill as well as confidence. I feel we both grew from this experience and I am glad to know that the future of my profession is in such good hands! Most of my service to the profession has come in the form of personal contact and presentations. I have guided many student teachers as a cooperating teacher, and have been on the University side as a supervising teacher as well. Today, I am proud to call many of these students my colleagues.
Any quotes from students about you as a physical education teacher, or the classes taught by you?
"Miss Ricker always makes me feel like I can do it." Sammy, 3rd Grade
"Miss Ricker is the best PE teacher because she explains everything so we can understand it. She also pushes us." Lydia, 3rd Grade
"PE has always been one of my favorite things at Morley. Ms. Ricker has made it a place where I feel safe and know all I have to do is my best." Sophia, 5th Grade
"Miss Ricker makes PE super fun. If someone needs help she comes right over. She puts lots of effort into whatever she does and encourages everyone." Molly. 5th Grade
"I love PE class! It's not just that it is fun (notice just, it is very fun!) I've learned so much! Alexa, 5th Grade
"She helps people who struggle in PE. We always do something different every time we go in. Ms. Ricker makes PE seem like fun, not work. PE is awesome, it rocks!" Morgan, 5th grade
List three of your "favorite" conference session titles that you have presented, with a brief description of each.
A demonstration of a music and Physical Education combination Program. Each movement has a different selection of music, which the music teacher plays on the piano, so that the children need to listen very hard to know what to do, how fast to do it, and when to change movement. It focuses on correct form in movement, timing, creativity, fitness, as well as underlying traits needed for academic success (laterality, directionality, and midline crossing).
"Learn to move, Move to learn"
A program designed for both the physical educator as well as the classroom teacher. It focuses on movement as a means to increasing academic performance in the classroom.
"NASPE STARS Round table discussion"
I was honored to have my Principal be part of this session with me in Fort Worth. We shared the STARS Program from our own perspective and encouraged others to take the plunge and try the program. This is truly an examination of every part of the journey to providing a quality physical education program for children.
Any additional major teaching awards you have received
NASPE STARS School 2008-2013
John Prasch Health and Physical Fitness Award 2008
Nebraska Elementary Teacher of the year. 2008
Central District Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the year