Originally published Oct. 28, 2017 in the Woodstock Independent.

By Whitney Rupp


Twice a week, Olson Elementary School physical education teacher Jackie Anderson hands over the reins to her first- and second-grade class to another group of students.

The PE leadership class offered at Woodstock High School gives students real-world experiences in the teaching arena at the elementary school level. Students interested in the course might have an interest in education as a career or be passionate about athletics. Either way, it’s a partnership enjoyed by some of the youngest and oldest students in Woodstock School District 200.

The elective course consists mostly of juniors and seniors and is led by PE division chair Matt Prill. Early in the semester, WHS students spend time observing elementary students at Olson, doing some peer teaching together and designing a lesson plan to present.


Eden Janiga, a Woodstock High student, leads Olson Elementary first-graders in PE lessons Oct. 17. Independent Photo by Whitney Rupp

While Anderson steps back to let the leadership students teach — usually for two half-classes per week in first- and second-grade classes — she doesn’t go far. She joins her students and engages in the experience.

“I think it gives another perspective. They look up to those older kids. They just enjoy having them. They always ask me when the high school kids are coming,” Anderson said.

Dayshinique Thomas, a junior at WHS, said the best part of the class is watching the students grow through learning.

“They learn so fast,” Thomas said. “Our project is going to be on dribbling, which basically teaches them left from right. It’s amazing how they learn in such a short time.”

Prill said his students are eager to kick off their lesson plans for the first time in the school year, much like their part-time “students.”

“I see the excitement and Jackie sees it even more than me. They really look up to them. It’s something different. When we’re here, there’s a bit of extra excitement in the air,” Prill said.

The PE leadership course is one of more than seven PE class choices for high schoolers. Students can take a second year in the leadership program, where the progression of working with others continues at the high school level as they teach peers and help with athletic events.

Olivia Kulchawik, an Olson second-grader, excitedly joined her classmates for the first lesson taught by WHS students this year, which involved a fabric parachute, much to the delight of everyone in the gymnasium.

“They help us a lot. They help Mrs. Anderson and I really like that because they’re being kind to the teacher and to us,” Olivia said, adding that even though safety is emphasized, fun is had by all.

Olivia, who said she is the oldest in her family, said it is better than spending time with an older sibling.

“I don’t think it is like working with a big sister or big brother. It’s more like hanging out with a friend.”

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