An interview and discussion with Ann King from Spring Branch Independent School District
By Shana Alford
November 10, 2020
COVID-19 has transformed education, challenging educators to think differently about how to reach students. Throughout the pandemic, teachers have reported varying levels of success with the move to virtual learning.
Ann King, a high school physical education teacher at Spring Branch Independent School District’s Westchester Academy, realized early on in her journey with virtual learning that she would have to think differently about inspiring her students through virtual learning.
“Kids internalize differently,” King said. “After schools closed and classes went online, during the first week I only had 10 percent of students sign on, and besides calling, emailing, and harassing, I knew I had to get creative.”
Within the Title I district where King teaches, students have varying of needs beyond education. When COVID-19 arrived, she was concerned about some of her students not getting enough to eat, as well as challenges they faced regarding their mental capacity and stress level and feeling isolated. She knows that some kids were depressed, and she wanted to find a way to engage them.
Many physical education teachers went from having 60 minutes a day with students to only 15 minutes a day in an online format, and then to 15-30 minutes a week, according to King.
King heard from other national physical education leaders across the country that virtual physical education was not successful. PE teachers were learning through trial and error.
“Teachers had to leave behind what they thought they had to teach in order to teach what students needed,” King said.
This new dynamic prompted King to make a shift. She realized she had to engage students by teaching lifetime fitness, skills that could be applied to daily life. Movement was most important. Without live classes and limited to a board bulletin, Ms. King made fun and engaging videos, and it worked!
She shared nutrition facts while feeding a pet monkey, grooming horses, and walking a dog in the park. She suggested scavenger hunts, chalking in driveways. Hand-eye coordination was possible with throwing a ball into trash can. Also, students could bike, walk, and play with family and friends as part of PE. Participation rose to 95 percent.
A Holistic Approach:
King believes nutrition is a critical component of wellness.
“If we skip this generation of high school kids, who are making their own decisions about where they are going to eat and how much they are going to eat, we are going to lose a generation,” King said.
Based on a survey completed by GENYOUth, high school students reported that they want to learn more about nutrition, but they don’t know where to get the information. At an International Baccalaureate high school and charter school, grades 6th-12th grade, King focuses on skills-based learning. King knows that students are cooking for their families and babysitting siblings, no matter their culture or socioeconomic backgrounds, and they need life skills. She embraced nutrition education as part of her health education training.
Challenges for school re-openings:
King’s school is going to engage in virtual learning in the fall and she suspects it will continue for the entire school year. She is concerned about the exposure rate of COVID-19 for faculty and students when bringing students together, especially given that COVID-19 cases have been high in Texas.
Furthermore, the plan for physical education is to teach students in person, one time a week, but there will be many limitations. Students cannot get their heart rates up and participate in rigorous exercise while wearing a mask.
“PE is a different animal. There are lots of safety issues that are still being worked out,” King explained.
In a location like Houston, students can’t go outside to exercise until the humidity decreases, which is closer to December. They will not have access to water fountains. Therefore, PE will not be PE.
There is still a lot to figure out, but King said she will be flexible and continue to try new methods, so kids are armed with nutrition education and fitness skills.
About Ann King
Ann King has invested more than 20 years in teaching physical education and nutrition education to high school students. She currently serves as a physical education teacher for the Spring Branch ISD International Baccaulaureate high school in Houston, educating all students within the 9-12 grade levels. She has been a Fuel Up to Play 60 program adviser for 11 years, which also includes Texas program adviser, FUTP60 Council, FUTP60 leadership team, media moderator and serve on varies committees within the organization. She also participates in the district Health Fitness leadership team and is active with Shape America, Marathon Kids, 100 mile club, and Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Finally, she was the recipient of PBS/The Henry Ford Innovative PE teacher of the year and GENYOUth Genny Award this year for dedicated support of healthy, high achieving youth.
ABOUT COMMON THREADS
Common Threads is a national nonprofit that provides children and families cooking and nutrition education to encourage healthy habits that contribute to wellness. We equip under-resourced communities with information to make affordable, nutritious and appealing food choices wherever they live, work, learn and play. We know that food is rooted in culture and tradition, so we promote diversity in our lessons and recipes, encouraging our participants to celebrate the world around them. To learn more, visit www.commonthreads.org or on social media by searching for #CookingForLife.