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The Art of Teaching with an Open Mind
Crowdis never had aspirations to become an educator at all, let alone a physical
education teacher. However, this past year, she received PHE Canada’s annual
national award for Teaching Excellence in Physical Education at the elementary
Despite all her hard work, Crowdis accepts this recognition in a very modest way. “Honestly, I don’t want to say I’m embarrassed, because I’m not, I’m very honoured,” she explained. “But at the same time I feel like many of my colleagues deserve it, in all schools. I know so many teachers that are doing so much innovation and amazing teaching, so I kind of feel singled out. A lot of what I do comes from meeting people and sharing, so many of my colleagues equally deserve it.”
Sure, she had never thought of teaching, but she had always been an active child and teenager, taking part in any sports team her school offered. But her forte was individual sports. Cross-country running, skiing, she tried it all, but when she got to CEGEP, she still followed the plan she had set up for herself since she was a child: she was going to be a lawyer.
But life had other plans for her. While pursuing her liberal arts degree at John Abbott College, she got involved in outdoor activities, and even became a teacher assistant for rock-climbing, hiking, and canoeing classes. “One day, the teacher I was assisting came up to me and said: ‘You know, you’re good with working with people, and talking to them and explaining in different styles for them to understand what they need to learn, you should really think about teaching.’ Quickly, I realised that I didn’t really like liberal arts and that if law was going to be anything like it, it wasn’t for me. At that point, I was really wondering what I was going to be now, if not a lawyer!” explained Crowdis, smiling.
Leaving all her plans behind, she enrolled at McGill to become a physical education teacher and graduated in 2003. After various replacement contracts at the New Frontiers School Board, she left on a one-year sabbatical to teach in Australia. There, she learned various techniques that she applies in her day-to-day teaching. Crowdis finally moved back to Montreal where she landed contracts at the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. Within four years of entering the board, she became a permanent teacher. She taught high school for a while, but after her daughter’s birth, she was sent to an elementary school in Rosemère, where she has been working ever since.
Kristin Crowdis loves what she does; she’s passionate, puts a lot of energy in her teaching, and always puts her students first. Crowdis is always looking for different opportunities to introduce the children to physical activity, to better their understanding and complement their learning. Last year, she introduced technology in the gymnasium, bringing an iPad to class. For her, it’s a way for the kids to take ownership of their own learning. For instance, to teach young kids fundamental movement skills such as jumping, she lets them film each other to illustrate the fact that they are not jumping as high as they think they are. For the older ones, she uses applications that let them better understand their cardiovascular system, measure their heart rate, to mention a few.
Everything Kristin Crowdis does is based on her philosophy of physical education. Her perspective toward it, her responsibility is not to create outstanding athletes but to introduce her students to a variety of sports with the hopes that they will have the opportunity to be exposed to something that they may not have been exposed to before. Maybe this new sport they learn will awaken something inside them, something they will go to their parents with the hopes of bringing sports outside of the gym, and something they will adopt as a lifelong activity. She applies this same philosophy with her young daughter, too. With this in mind, she brings her students on snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trips in the winter, while also doing a wrestling unit in the gym.
“What’s great with sports like wrestling is that all or most children are on an even playing field, which is not often the case in other sports that they may be practicing outside of school,” says Crowdis. “What happens is that those who are super athletes and used to being in great confidence get the opportunity to maybe not be the most successful, and vice-versa. It helps boost the confidence of the kids that aren’t always good at the other sports, and I find it very important.”
Through a variety of extracurricular physical activities, such as participating in the Défi Pierre Lavoie, an annual fundraising biking event, she strives to foster an active lifestyle at her school. She believes people understand that the more physically active a child is, the more their aptitude for learning increases. In that sense, her principal and School Board are very supportive of the initiatives she puts forth.
At the moment, her school is working to launch the “Trottibus” program for those who live nearby the school. It involves the children walking to school, following a specific route with pick-up points just like bus stops. Some parents act as supporters and guides along the route to ensure it is safe. She’s also trying to implement the “Bike Across Canada Program” in grade 3. In their class, students would have a spinning bike on which they would take turns biking throughout the day, for 10 minutes each, while the teacher gives a lesson. The idea is to get the kids moving while adding up their kilometers to cover the distance between Montreal and another Canadian city. When the desired city is reached, a group of students then give a presentation on the city for the class to discover the country while being constantly active.
Despite being part of various associations, coaching the girls’ basketball team after school and setting the example of an active lifestyle by biking to school when possible and doing sports on weekends, Crowdis loves to watch movies with her husband and daughter. She says she can be very, very lazy at times, and to be honest, she deserves it.
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