Distance learning has provided a whole new set of challenges for teachers. One of the biggest struggles is keeping students engaged from afar. Olivia Creonte, a K-5 PE teacher in Westminster, MA has risen to the challenge in every way possible. What stood out to us was her creative instagram videos utilizing apps and everyday household objects. When we spoke with her we realized that creativity is not limited to social media.
PE Coach: What made you want to be a PE teacher?
Olivia Creonte: I honestly have always wanted to become a physical education teacher. My whole life I have always been so involved in sports and physical activities. My elementary school phys ed teacher brought so much joy to my life and always made every class so much fun. It was the place where I felt I could truly be myself. I even told her in kindergarten that I couldn't wait to be just like her some day. When I was a senior in high school, through the National Honors Society, I was able to observe an elementary phys ed class once a week. I always had so much fun! I knew that I had made the right decision to study physical education at Bridgewater State University. I can happily say that I have landed my dream job!
PE Coach: Where do you get the ideas for your videos?
Olivia Creonte: When I first started teaching, many of my ideas came from my elementary phys ed teacher. I actually met with her over the summer before I started. She was so helpful and shared so many great ideas. Now, I couldn't imagine my life without my phys ed twitter account. I also belong to an elementary phys ed group on Facebook. The physical education community is amazing. I have learned so many great ideas from these two social media groups.
PE Coach: Many teachers are afraid to make videos of themselves for their students the way you do. What advice would you give to them?
Olivia Creonte: When I first started making videos, I couldn't stand listening to my voice!!! I feel much more comfortable posting without speaking in them and then writing out the directions!
PE Coach: Does your cat ever ruin your video takes?
Olivia Creonte: YES!!!!!! I sometimes have to put my cats in another room because they are always trying to get in on my videos! I have many blooper videos with my cats in them! It is actually pretty funny.
PE Coach: A lot of your videos show the benefits of the app HomeCourt. Do you have a favorite activity/challenge on it?
Olivia Creonte: I am beyond thrilled that I was able to discover the HomeCourt app. I believe I first saw it on twitter. It is such a great app that includes so many different challenges and activities. I am still learning and discovering new challenges to this day. My favorite challenge on it, is dribbling with one ball and using the single target. It is challenging and really gets your heart rate going. It is also great practice for dribbling and keeping your eyes up. I am such a competitive person that I spent almost an hour outside trying to beat my scores the first time I used it!
PE Coach: Do you have a favorite go-to lesson?
Olivia Creonte: When teaching in school, one of my favorite lessons is "Hula Hut." Students must work together and help each other knock down the other team's "huts." I love this lesson because it involves teamwork, strategy, communication, offensive skills, defensive skills, cooperation, aiming, as well as concentration! I feel that students really benefit from this activity.
When teaching from home, one of my favorite go to lessons is anything simple that students are able to access the equipment from home, I don't want to make things difficult for families at home.
PE Coach: Were you considering making your account before COVID closed schools down?
Olivia Creonte: I had made a Twitter account a while back but only posted every so often. I made it to really learn ideas and see what else was out there! I certainly always thought about making an Instagram, but now with schools closed, I wanted to share many activities for families, students, and friends that are looking for something different to do! It always melts my heart when I receive emails of students doing my activities!
PE Coach: What has been the biggest challenge for you as a teacher?
Olivia Creonte: One of my biggest challenges as a teacher was getting my Masters, while working full time. I was taking 3-4 classes at a time and they were over an hour away. I sometimes needed to wake up at 5 am to finish a paper because I didn't get home from class till about 10:00. It definitely paid off though!
Another challenge of mine was thinking that every lesson had to go perfectly as planned. I quickly learned that this will not always happen and that it is okay!
PE Coach: What has been the biggest reward?
Olivia Creonte: My biggest reward is watching students succeed and seeing a huge smile across their face. There is nothing better than this!
PE Coach: How do you handle disgruntled parents?
Olivia Creonte: I think the best way is to communicate. If a phone call is necessary, then a phone call is necessary! Hear their side of the story, and explain yours!
PE Coach: What would you say is the best technology to incorporate in the classroom?
Olivia Creonte: My school recently got a grant for iPads for all of the Specialist Teachers. I have not yet used them yet, but this would be a great way for students to use a video app, record themselves doing a skill and watching it. I think it is helpful to see yourself performing a skill and seeing what needs to be changed or done differently.
PE Coach: As a PE teacher it can be difficult to assess all of our students in a timely fashion. Are there any tips or tricks that you’ve found work best?
Olivia Creonte: This is certainly a challenge. Before I have students play an activity or game, they first practice the skill beforehand. With stations, I am able to watch students and I will put a star next to those that may be struggling. Stations help me to be able to walk around and see where help is needed. While students are then playing in the activity that involves the skill being learned, I am able to assess.
PE Coach: How do you prevent burn out?
Olivia Creonte: To prevent burn out, I always make sure to go to bed at a decent time. I am sometimes fast asleep by 830!
PE Coach: What is your biggest piece of advice to new teachers?
Olivia Creonte: For new teachers- Have fun with it!!! Students want to come and see a happy teacher. Don't get upset if a lesson doesn't go perfectly.
I would also tell a new teacher to write EVERYTHING down!!!! I didn't do this my first year. My second year, every week I wrote exactly what I did for each grade. This way, when I go back I can see exactly what lesson I did and when. It makes the year go by much easier and smoother. I also take a calendar and plan out my units throughout the whole year. If you ask me in September what I am doing the first week of May, I will have an answer! It makes me stay on top of things and I feel much more organized.
PE Coach: What is the funniest student quote you think you’ve heard?
Olivia Creonte: This is when I wish I wrote things down! I have had so many laughs over the past 4 years. I was in the middle of demonstrating dribbling for my soccer unit when a student raised his hand. He said "Ms. Creonte, I can tell if bacon is crispy or not just from the smell. I knew it this past weekend and I didn't even see the bacon!" That is great...but right now we are talking about soccer!!! It was so cute and made me laugh.
We are extremely that Olivia Creonte took the time to speak with us and give her valuable insight. Be sure to check her out on instagram @mscreontepe