Meet Walking Classroom Ambassador Kari Lawson. Kari teaches fourth grade language arts and social studies at Westwood Elementary School in Tennessee, and has just finished her first year using The Walking Classroom. She has worked in education for 18 years, and has taught in three states (Idaho, Alaska, and Tennessee) at five different schools! Kari has taught kindergarten, first, third, fourth, and fifth grades, and has even taught two multi-age classes!
What are your memories of yourself when you were that age?
I loved school and had a wonderful fourth grade teacher. I remember learning all about our state’s history and I had to memorize ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to recite in class. (My students are impressed that I can still recite the original from memory.) My friends and I frequently played the Game of Life during rainy day recesses.
What led you to become an educator?
My dad was a teacher, as were several other family members. From an early age, I felt drawn to education myself.
I believe my purpose is to provide a safe, nurturing environment for my students so that they can grow academically and personally in the time we have together during the school year. I want my students to be great learners, but more importantly, I want them to be good citizens and compassionate human beings.
What is your favorite content area/topic to teach? Why?
Reading is my favorite content area, because it carries across to all of the other subjects. I love reading aloud to students and having them get excited about new and interesting books. I enjoy making connections across the subjects by introducing students to great books!
What is your favorite podcast or Walking Classroom memory and why?
I have a hard time picking a favorite podcast, because my class and I have enjoyed them all so much. I love learning new information along with my students when I listen to them!
My favorite memory is realizing the difference The Walking Classroom has made in the health of some of my students. At the beginning of the year, I had a student that was convinced he was having a heart attack during one of our early walks. I kept encouraging him to keep going and not to give up. By the end of the year, his walking stamina improved greatly, and he was so proud of himself!
What is your best teaching memory?
My husband and I had the opportunity on two different occasions to be the only two teachers in one-room school settings in Alaska. We loved having the chance to work together (he is a secondary school teacher) and experience new, exciting situations with all of our students. During our time at the second school, our two children were also my students, so we had a lot of memorable family time together.
What advice would you give to a new teacher?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek support. Teaching is difficult, but with a good support system, it is immensely rewarding. Do your best to find a balance between school life and home life. There are always school things that need to be done, but it is important to make time to relax and enjoy family and friends so you don’t burn out.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to travel and to spend time with my family. We drive cross-country to visit extended family every summer and love exploring our national parks along the way. Around home, I enjoy relaxing on our family farm, watching movies, and kayaking.
Name something you’d like to cross off your bucket list.
I am an avid fan of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska. I’ve seen the race at the start/re-start and at the Skwentna checkpoint. In the future, I’d love to be an Idita-rider and also experience the finish in Nome.