By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Pittsfield and Pattengill’s Elementary physical education teacher Darcy Knoll was recently named SHAPE Michigan’s Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. She is very passionate about physical education and its importance in a student’s educational experience and has presented at several physical education conferences regarding classroom management and activities and ideas for the elementary PE classroom.
Knoll grew up in Ann Arbor, the daughter of James and Janet Thorpe. She attended the Ann Arbor Public Schools from grades K through 12 and graduated from Pioneer High School, where she was recently inducted into the Pioneer Athletic Hall of Fame. Knoll attended Central Michigan University on an athletic scholarship where she played four years of field hockey and earned a degree in health fitness.
Immediately after college, Knoll returned to Ann Arbor where she began coaching with the Pioneer field hockey and softball programs, coaching travel softball, and working as an exercise physiologist. Coaching led her to return to school and obtain her teaching certificate from Eastern Michigan University while she continued to coach and to work in a fitness environment.
Knoll then taught in Clio for three years before returning to Ann Arbor where she has been teaching for 20 years. She earned a master’s degree from Marygrove College and returned to coach with the Pioneer field hockey and softball programs. Besides coaching for 16 years in each of those programs, she has coached numerous other sports at various levels, and has been involved in a travel baseball organization she founded 15 years ago. Regardless of the season, she is always involved in coaching or assisting a team in some sport.
Knoll commutes daily from Fenton where she lives with her husband, Brad, a teacher in Birch Run, and sons Peyton, 20, and Logan, 15. Her favorite activity when not working is spending as much time as possible with her family and watching her own sons play sports with their various teams. This involves traveling to Wisconsin several times a year to watch her older son play baseball.
How did you become Physical Education Teacher of the Year? I was asked to present and speak at several professional conferences and have been networking with professionals from various universities. Through these avenues—in addition to having PE interns the last several years—people began to see my work and methodology.
What are your favorite memories of P.E. class when you were in grade school? Favorite memories of PE when I was in grade school include having Diane Wahl as my teacher. She is still teaching in Ann Arbor at Wines and has always been a wonderful mentor to me.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? Probably something to the extent that I socialize too much.
What inspired you to become a teacher? Why physical education? I began coaching and loved the experience of working with youth. I was inspired to get my teaching certificate and go into physical education as I wanted to impact individuals at a young age. The goal is for people to start making healthy choices at a young age and to understand the importance of exercise so that these components would be a regular part of one’s lifestyle instead of a sudden necessary change for a person later in life. Additionally, I chose physical education because I wanted all students to have opportunities to be confident in one’s self and to experience success – which I always try to incorporate into my classes. These attributes are vital for participation in many activities as one gets older. Elementary physical education has been the perfect setting to really influence students to be healthy at an early age.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? I continue to find and believe in the importance of physical education in the school’s curriculum. Teaching is a very demanding profession, but as an educator, one must have high expectations of one’s self as well as each student. Additionally, for optimal learning, it is very vital to establish positive relationships with students and to use many different teaching strategies to reach all students.
Describe an average workday. Every day is different but an average day consists of approximately nine different classes of all different grades and often working with Mileage Club at lunchtime. I am always on my feet as there is no sitting in the gym. Being at two different schools and having a different schedule every day always keeps things interesting. After school, it has always been off to a practice. I usually leave my house around seven and often do not get home before seven.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? My advice to a first-year teacher would be to be flexible and patient. A good teacher is going to have to make necessary changes and or adjustments to a lesson often and when least expected. Also, don’t forget about the little things as those items will often make a big difference in the success of the class. Seek advice from others, enjoy your students, and enjoy the process and growth of being an educator
Favorite websites: Anything to do with sports, fitness, or PE.
What’s your personal workout routine? Are you careful about what you eat? Working out and eating healthy has always been a part of my lifestyle and always will be. My personal workout routine tends to vary depending on what else is going on in my life during a particular time of the year. I love running and lifting.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching is working with the students each day and enjoying each class with them. Through teaching, one can really have an impact on the lives of students.
What has surprised you most about the profession? What is surprising is that nothing is surprising anymore in the teaching profession. I love though seeing all of the educators stay so dedicated especially with all of the changes that have occurred in teaching. Seeing how technology has evolved and has been implemented throughout my teaching career has been very astonishing and surprising.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? Teaching is very challenging and very demanding of time and commitment. I think the job of a teacher is a lot harder then people realize.
What’s special about working at Pittsfield at Pattengill? What is special about working at Pittsfield and Pattengill is the opportunity to work for two of the best administrators in the district. Carol Shakarian and Melita Alston are both encouraging individuals and always so supportive of every aspect. I am also fortunate to work with wonderful staff at each school who make going to work every day very enjoyable. I love seeing such positive teachers who are so dedicated to their profession.
How do you recharge? Spending time with my family is what recharges me There is nothing I enjoy more. Working out and playing golf whenever possible are other avenues that help me recharge.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? Receiving the Michigan Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the year award has definitely been the excitement in regards to my professional life. In my personal life, being happily married to my husband for 24 years and seeing my boys be successful in high school and college is very exciting for me.