Pictured: Ms. Rachel Petten | Photo Credit: Jeremy Reynolds
Getting to Know a New Faculty Member
Many Lakecrest families have heard of Ms. Rachel Petten, our new physical education teacher for the 2020-21 school year. In a normal school year there would be ample time for families to interact with new teachers and get to know them a little better. However, we know that this year is hardly a normal one. In the spirit of getting to know this new and valued member of our Lakecrest community, the Communications Committee reached out to Ms. Petten for a question and answer piece.
Ms. Petten is a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Physical Education program at Memorial University (2020) and is a certified Autism Home Therapist. Here’s some of the story of how a young competitive figure skater from Port de Grave, Newfoundland and Labrador, became the newest member of the Lakecrest faculty.
Question & Answer
1. What kind of sporting activities were you involved in growing up?
I started figure skating at the age of two and continued until I was 16 years old. When I was eight years old I was named a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador figure skating team. I travelled back and forth to St. John’s four to five days a week to train with my coach who lived in Mount Pearl. My small hometown did not have the coaching or enough ice time for me to train competitively. My devoted parents gave up so much of their own time to help me become the best skater I could possibly be. I began to volunteer as a program assistant with the Conception Bay North Figure Skating Club in my hometown. Without realizing, this was the beginning of my teaching journey; teaching children how to skate. When I reached high school I wanted to be more active in my school community and participate in team sports with my friends. I began to play soccer, volleyball and cheerleading, which I thoroughly enjoyed. By the end of high school I was the captain of my soccer and cheerleading team. Volleyball has always been a pastime I enjoyed and I am currently running an extracurricular volleyball program at Lakecrest for grades seven to nine.
2. Why did you choose the Bachelor of Physical Education program?
When I graduated high school, I wanted a career in the medical field, or so I thought. The waitlist for this program was three to four years. I remember talking to my mom about what I should do while I was waiting. She told me “Go to university and study something that you love, the rest will fall into place.” For me, physical activity, health and wellness have always been a huge part of my life and is a passion of mine. I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Physical Education from Memorial University while I was waiting to get into the medical radiography technology program, not knowing I would end up being a physical education teacher.
The Bachelor of Education Program at Memorial taught me all that I know today about teaching physical education. I learned how to problem solve on the spot when an activity wasn’t working the way you wanted it to, to think outside the box and appeal to a multitude of learners, and how to effectively communicate with children of all ages. The Physical Education program at Memorial has brought me some of the greatest friends I have ever known and truly changed my life.
3. We understand autism is a cause near to your heart. How did that influence your worldview and your decision to teach?
While I was in university, my two year old cousin was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I lived with her and her family during my time in university. I wanted to learn more about autism and how I could understand and help her. I completed the Applied Behavioural Analyst course through Eastern Health and became a certified Autism Home Therapist. I began working as an Autism Home Therapist and truly fell in love with teaching. This job brought me a sense of purpose and joy that I had never known. Working with children with autism has changed my life and allowed me to appreciate the joy in the little things. This, without a doubt, is what flipped my switch and opened my eyes to the career of teaching. Without knowing it, teaching had been a part of my life for so many years, it became second nature to me.
4. What are some of your teaching philosophies as you begin your career?
My ambition is to collaborate with students to create a community that satisfies their needs as learners; to teach in a way that creates a deep sense of understanding and to have knowledge about movement that can be translated to other areas of my students’ lives. A place where they can comfortably express themselves, develop physical competency and that promotes lifelong learning and a love of wellness and health.
5. The Lakecrest curriculum follows the IB philosophy of student-centred learning. What has been your experience teaching this inquiry-based curriculum?
I think that the teachers at Lakecrest have done a wonderful job instilling inquiry into the everyday lives of students, so that it just comes naturally to them at this point. The students are constantly making cross-curricular connections in the gymnasium to things they are doing in language arts, or music and to their lives outside of the school. I also think that giving students choice and freedom to learn through trial and error is huge for inquiry in physical education. Giving them the foundation they need while encouraging them to take risks and be brave has been something I have been aiming to do in the gym.
6. You’re now coaching Lakecrest volleyball for grades seven to nine. What’s that been like and how have you adjusted to the COVID-19 protocols?
Because of the COVID-19 regulations, we have opted to do co-ed volleyball. Since the students are not allowed to mix cohorts, it would be nearly impossible to get a full team of grade seven, eight and nine male and female teams because of the school’s small class sizes. The co-ed aspect has been working extremely well and I love that the students
get to experience that this year. There are, of course, way more protocols in place than there would normally be. For example, the sanitizing of equipment before and after play, keeping a clear divide in the gym between the grade sevens and the eights and nines, and having separate equipment for each group so they do not touch equipment that has been touched by a player who isn’t in their cohort. There are certainly a lot of extra things to think about this year, but I am so glad we could make it work. I’m having a great time teaching the kids and joining in on games.
Thanks for Ms. Petten for answering our questions. We hope this allowed you to get to know her a little better. Please check back for more regular blogs and more teacher profiles in the future.