By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetJune 13, 2009
Pam Koon, who teaches physical education at Dexter Elementary, was named the 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year for the Georgia/Alabama Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary School district.
Koon began as a teacher in Muscogee County in 1975 but decided to transition to Fort Benning in 1981.
"And I just loved it," said Koon, who has taught physical education at Dexter Elementary for the past 28 years. "I felt like I had come home ... like I fit right in, and I've been very happy."
In Koon's class, P.E. isn't just running laps or doing push-ups. Koon has a more "connected" approach, said Dr. RenAfAe Mallory, principal for Dexter and Wilson Elementary.
"A lot of people think P.E. teachers teach only P.E., but she does so much more," Mallory said. "She uses what she teaches (kids) in P.E. as a platform to support academic programs. She finds out what they're doing in the classroom then, when she forms her lessons, she also incorporates what the teachers are teaching, whether it's math or vocabulary. Her focus is so much on the children. She's amazing; she really is."
"These are my kids. They're my legacy," Koon said. "I try to do everything to make a child the best person that child can be: all around balanced, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially.
"I knew one little boy played baseball, and I asked him, 'How is your team doing'' and he said, 'Why do you care'' I said, 'You've hit the nail on the head. I do care.' I do care about what you do when you leave this school, what you do after school, what you do on the weekends. I do care. And I want you to do the right thing. That's why I'm up here doing what I'm doing, because I care. I just feel like that's my purpose. It's my heart. It's everything."
When she's not teaching physical education, Koon works with students to help them catch up in their studies and leads brain-based activities in other teachers' classrooms.
She also teaches sign language and, after school, knitting. With a small group of students and teachers, Koon has helped knit caps and blankets for children in the community.
Koon said she wants students to learn the keys of success. She promotes the core subjects, technology, goal setting and good manners to help students grow to their full potential.
That's part of why Koon introduced sport stacking, a competitive sport where participants stack cups quickly and carefully in varied formations, to the Fort Benning community.
The activity "makes your brain work better" and builds confidence, Koon said.
"Everybody can do this," she said. "I don't care (if) you're not that good in sports or you don't like sports or whatever - you can do this."
Another idea that integrates movement with learning, the Feeling Good Mileage Club meets twice a week before school to walk around the track. Koon started the club to let students gear up for learning with exercise.
"It's a good time to get energized, to get your brain ready for learning, to get your blood flowing. It's a good time to walk and talk with your friends," she said.
While they walk around the track, students may count in twos or discuss shapes in the clouds to incorporate thinking with physical activity.
"It all works together," Koon said. "If you've got the body involved, you're going to make the learning more meaningful, and it's going to go in your brain better. And it just makes it more fun."