Teaching health is one of the most crucial parts of our job. We have to teach some very uncomfortable subjects to teens while making them see the importance of lifelong fitness. This is why we are honored to chat with the 2020 National SHAPE Health Teacher of the Year, Jessica Napier.
Jessica Napier has been teaching for 18 years and currently is a 6th-9th grade teacher at Lee County Middle High School in Beattyville, KY
The PE Coach: What steps were involved in earning this honor?
Jessica Napier: I was nominated and awarded the KY SHAPE Teacher of the Year in 2019. That made me eligible for the 2020 SHAPE Southern District Health Education Teacher of the Year which I was awarded in November 2019. That award made me eligible for the SHAPE America National Health Education Teacher of the Year, which I was awarded on May 5, 2020.
The PE Coach: What made you want to be a teacher?
Jessica Napier: I became a teacher because I discovered a love of working with kids at a summer camp when I was 17. I became a health and PE teacher because I wanted to make a difference in my community. I lived in an area of the country where preventable diseases were/are too common.
The PE Coach:Are there any conferences or conventions you recommend to other teachers?
Jessica Napier: First, be active in and supportive of your state health and pe organizations. Other teachers need you, and you can find support there for yourself.
Right now, PD looks very different than it normally does, with it being offered in a virtual setting. I took part in the virtual PhysEdSummit, it was amazing. I have also attended virtual sessions from various state organizations. Right now, there are lots of state organizations offering virtual PD. I’m working with some state organizations to offer some Health Ed PD myself. SHAPE America has some awesome PD resources on their page too.
There are also Twitter chats that have helped me a lot. #SHAPEHealthEd has one that will resume in September, I believe. They have a PE one too.
The PE Coach: As a PE and Health teacher it can be difficult to assess all of our students in a timely fashion. Is there any tips or tricks that you’ve found work best?
Jessica Napier: I like to use self-assessment and peer-assessment when appropriate in PE. For daily formative assessment in health I like to use technology like PollEverywhere, Kahoot!, and others that give me quick feedback. As a district, we use learning target checklists for each unit, which we prepare beforehand so that students track their learning and let teachers know when a target is unclear or hasn’t been achieved. For summative assessments in Health I use Performance Based Assessments. I helped create this Performance Assessment Toolkit with Cairn Guidance. It is a useful tool that will save teachers a lot of time. Ultimately, though, using that data you gather to improve teaching and learning is the most important part of assessment.
The PE Coach: What do you think is the most difficult aspect of your job? And what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Jessica Napier: Right now, most difficult part of my job is not being able to teach my students in person. I’m hoping and praying that we will be able to healthfully meet in person soon.
In a normal, non-COVID year the most difficult part of my job is probably all the paperwork I have to do. I honestly enjoy all the aspects of dealing with students, even in difficult times. The most rewarding part of my job is getting to work with bright minds and enthusiastic personalities! They breathe life into my day.
The PE Coach: Do you have a type of technology that you like to use in class?
Jessica Napier: As I stated earlier, I like to use PollEverywhere, Kahoot!, Quizlet, etc. for formative assessment. I like to use FlipGrid, BookCreator, Powtoon, Canva, Slides, among many others for summative performance assessments. I have found Gif creators to be helpful for PE. Instead of posting written instructions, I can loop Gif of the activity.
The PE Coach: How do you incorporate other subjects into your lessons?
Jessica Napier: We read Restart by Gordon Korman in my 6th grade health class, which includes a lot of literacy activities while discussing bullying prevention. We calculate the nutrient content of food to select healthy snacks and drinks which incorporates math. We discuss cultural relevancy when learning to access valid resources which incorporates social studies. We frequently read Choices magazine in my 9th grade health class which incorporates literacy.
The PE Coach: How do you prevent burn out?
Jessica Napier: I try to contribute whatever I can to the profession, to my students, and to my colleagues. I feel joy when I know I’m helping someone. When I need a break, I step away and recharge. I pray a lot too, I realize that there is a higher power in control. Not me.
The PE Coach: How do you handle disgruntled parents?
Jessica Napier: I listen to them. Parents have a voice, and they have a right to voice their concerns about their child. When I speak to a disgruntled parent, I first tell them that I care about their child and want him/her to succeed. The conversation that follows is usually constructive.
The PE Coach: What is your biggest piece of advice to new teachers?
Jessica Napier: Find your unique style, that makes you happy and comfortable. Stick to it. Don’t feel like you have to mirror someone else. Also, remember that your students need you, even on your worst day.
The PE Coach: What is the funniest student quote you think you’ve heard?
Jessica Napier: I can’t think of a quote, but several years ago I had 2 boys who would color commentate our games in PE. They were hilarious!
Jessica Napier is always willing to help other teachers and you can find her on Facebook, Instagram (jessnapier1), or Twitter (@NapierJess). We are so grateful to her for making time to speak with us!