When COVID-19 shutdowns threatened the opportunity for Troy University students to gain valuable teaching experience in the classrooms of area school systems, a faculty member came up with a creative solution that has proven to be a win-win for both her students and members of the community.
Lana Johnson, a Health and Physical Education Lecturer, made lemonade out of lemons by utilizing a program that benefitted her friends who were home schooling their children, while also providing the classroom-type experience that students in her “Teaching Individual and Team Sports I and II” classes needed to prepare them for their futures.
The program brought home school students to the Troy Campus on Fridays during the semester for activities taught and led by her students.
“I started this program because my students couldn’t get into the school systems due to COVID, and we had to come up with a solution so that my students could experience teaching,” said Johnson, whose research interest is organized physical education for the home school child. “A lot of my friends were home-schooling so we asked them to bring their kids to campus and it really just started to snowball from there. Last semester, we had 71 children enrolled in the program.”
Johnson, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from TROY, taught and coached at Pike County High School before joining the University’s faculty and knows the value the experience has for her students.
“My students are able to teach for 50 minutes with these home school kids in three different age groups – elementary, middle and high school.” She said. “This program gives my students the opportunity to get the experience they need before they go into the school systems.”
Senior D’Angelo Parker of Tallassee agrees that teaching experience made possible through the project has been invaluable.
“This is a class where we teach kids how to do different activities and we form lesson plans based off those activities,” he said. “Each Friday, they come to campus and we are able to teach them, which helps prepare us to become physical educators.”
Parker also sees the value of the program against the backdrop of the pandemic.
“Since we have been through a time where we have been isolated from others, this is a good opportunity for the kids to come back out and get to be with one another,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to see these kids come out here and have fun. It gets us going as teachers and let’s us know what we can look forward to in the future.”
Lori Morales, whose 15-year-old son Logan participates in the program, sees it as a win-win for the children and the University students.
“Being around his peer group and having the physical activity has been a good experience for him,” Morales said. “Lana has a terrific program, and he just loves being on campus. I think it is a huge benefit, not just for the physical activity and the opportunity to get out of the house, but also emotionally. Kids can get depressed being stuck at home and being isolated from peers, so I think it has been a huge win-win for both the University and the kids.”
On a recent Friday this fall, the home school students maneuvered through a chalk-drawn obstacle course along the sidewalks surrounding the campus’ main quad. The mazes and obstacles were provided by students from the University’s Department of Art and Design. From there, the students took their places around large, multi-colored parachutes for another series of activities.
Raeghan Worley, a seventh grader participating in the program, said the program is not only fun, but also provides other benefits as well.
“I think it is fun, and of course, we are getting good exercise,” Worley said. “It also gives us the opportunity to meet new friends and get to know other home schoolers.”