Broken Arrow Express
LIFE-SIZED: Liberty Elementary’s Teacher of the Year, Kelli Collins, stands next to a picture of herself that sits at the school’s front doors. “In college, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I knew that being a classroom teacher would not work for me,” Collins says. “I needed to be jumping around and active with the kids.”
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Liberty Elementary’s Teacher of the Year, Kelli Collins, doesn’t like to sit still for long. Collins teaches Physical Education and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“In college, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I knew that being a classroom teacher would not work for me,” she says. “I needed to be jumping around and active with the kids.”
Collins aims to bring a creative, unexpected element to her classes. “I’m always thinking outside of the box,” says Collins. She has been known to engage her students through math scavenger hunts and “Survivor” games; she has brought in sports pros, and had students create their own sports games.
“I believe children have to know how to throw and hit a ball, but I want to teach that in a different way,” she says.
Collins and fellow P.E. teacher Anthony Day have even helped students learn American history. When students perform jumping jacks, instead of counting, they recite the names of U.S. presidents. “Every child in school can recite the 44 presidents in order,” Collins says.
Her ultimate objective, nonetheless, is a simple one: to motivate and keep kids moving.
“When kids get older, P.E. is one of the first things to go,” she says. “For kids who don’t play sports, that’s it. They probably won’t go to the gym or just run for fun. I want to . . . show them all the options for physical activity.”
Collins recognizes one of the largest discouragements to physical activity is technology. “It can help in so many ways, but kids spend so much time indoors instead of running and playing,” she says. “I’m trying to bring that joy back into P.E. so that when they go home they want to run and do some of the things we do in class.”
Besides encouraging healthy living, physical activity is also a way to help students gain direction in their lives, Collins believes. “If it wasn’t for organized sports I could have been lost,” she says. During high school and college, Collins played tennis. At the beginning of February, she will be inducted into Northeastern State University’s Athletic Hall of Fame for having the most women’s singles wins in school history at the time of her graduation.
“Organized sports keep kids busy and out of trouble,” she says. “I don’t think I would have become teacher of the year or had the kind of success I’ve had if I had just been a student in school. I’m the type of person who has to be involved.”