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West Jordan Journal

Terra Linda Elementary P.E. teacher receives national award

Aug 02, 2021 11:31AM ● By Jet Burnham

Jaime Scott receives a Crystal Apple Award May 7, 2021, for joining the kindergarten literacy team. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Lori McCarty changed the way she has been teaching kindergarten for the last 22 years to adapt to the challenges brought on by the pandemic—extended student absences, limited hands-on learning tools, reduction of class aides.

“It has just been hurdle after hurdle after hurdle, but I do feel like it sharpened all of us,” McCarty said. “We realized we need to start thinking out of the box and be creative to find some new ways to do things. In the end, these kids are counting on us. Those parents are counting on us. We still have a job to do.”

McCarty, who teaches at Terra Linda Elementary, came up with a new game plan last year. She created disposable activities instead of shared objects, worked through her lunch hour and asked colleagues to join her team. P.E. specialist Jaime Scott stepped up to the plate, willing to take one for the team and play in a position outside of her field and turn playtime into learning time. 

On Fridays, when select students were invited to come to school, Scott worked with kindergartners and first graders, inventing games that gave them extra practice with reading and math foundational skills.

“She thinks way outside the box to change the activity to hit their skill gaps,” said Karen Gorringe, who was principal at Terra Linda Elementary last year. 

Bowling became a game of letter identification. A game of catch became a review of phonics or sight words or numbers.

“I try to take what their teacher has already taught them, or is trying to get them to review, and I just make it more of a P.E. game,” Scott said. “I think they really just think they're coming to P.E. for the day. It's just a new game.”

McCarty said that’s what makes the activities so successful.

“They're so excited about it, and that's what's huge,” she said. “Just getting kids to come in on Friday, when not everybody is there, can be challenging. But they want to come in and do gym. So that has made a big difference.”

The academic activities helped level the playing field for students. McCarty said none of her students last year fell behind in their skill acquisition.

Scott also went to bat for first grade teacher Shelley Lloyd, providing after-school tutoring twice a week when Lloyd was short-handed.

“She had so many kids that needed some extra help, and it was so many for just one teacher, so I said I can help out,” Scott said. “So, I'm teaching reading and math as a P.E. teacher.”

For her creative efforts and teamwork, Scott was nominated by her colleagues and received a Crystal Apple Award, sponsored by Horrace Mann. Mario Pia, a representative of the company, said they value the opportunity to reward and support exemplary teachers.

Scott is starting her third year at Terra Linda Elementary, and she loves her job.

“I love that I get to see the whole school—not very many teachers get to work with all the kids all day,” she said. “I get to see them when they are having fun and laughing and moving, while they're not sitting in desks, and they don't have to be quiet.”

Scott said sports and games help her connect with students. She uses universal movement and the international love of soccer to connect with students with limited language skills who immigrate from other countries.

Scott loves to see when students finally master a skill or recognize their improvement.

“I like seeing them get the lightbulb when they finally get something and they’re excited,” she said. “That's what makes me love what I do.”