Elementary teacher strives to teach kids to live healthy lives
"I want to see some crabs walking in the hot sand," Park Rapids Teacher of the Year Molly Aukes told one of her kindergarten physical education classes Monday morning.
The students responded to the request with giggles and proceeded to quickly walk backwards on their hands and legs, imitating crabs. The activity was part of a warm up for Century Elementary kindergartners, who are learning the basics this year.
Aukes was voted this year's Teacher of the Year for Park Rapids by her peers - members of Education Minnesota Park Rapids.
"I was humbled," she said of the award. "It really says a lot about the teachers in this district. They understand the importance of physical education."
Aukes has taught in the Park Rapids School District for about 12 years. She started out teaching all ages of students before switching to solely elementary teaching.
"I student taught here with John Schumacher and was able to get a teaching job the following year," she said.
She now teaches 10 classes a day to kindergarten through fourth graders at Century.
"The kids get 30 minutes of physical education each day, which is really nice, especially this time of year," Aukes said. "We have a great department with people who really understand that activity is key."
Since she teaches young children, Aukes' classes include teaching developmental skills along with physical education.
As students entered the gym Monday morning Aukes asked them to look down at their feet.
"Some of you need to make sure your shoes are tied before we start," she said. She helped one student work on tying double knots.
After warm ups where students imitated animals, kindergartners got in a circle to work on stretching and toe jumps.
Four stations were set up for them to work on sit-ups, jump hurdles, throw a ball at a target and even work on simple math problems.
The last activity involved running across the gym to roll some dice then running back to write down what was rolled on the dice and creating a math problem. For example, one student rolled a 5 and a 2. He wrote down "5 + 2 = 7."
"At this age, a lot of what we work on is procedure and following directions," Aukes said. "It's a learning experience, a real introduction."
Each year the students learn new exercises.
"We want to the kids to have fun and become strong while creating healthy habits," she said.
Beyond her teaching duties at the elementary school, Aukes also serves as head volleyball coach for the high school.
"It's nice because I'm able to experience both ends of the spectrum," she said. "I get to teach different levels. It's the best of both worlds."
Aukes is on the continuing education committee and helps with staff development. She received her teaching degree from Bemidji State University and also has a license in teaching physically impaired students.
"I'm also involved with the union and working on teachers' rights," she said.
Aukes works on district wellness and was instrumental in starting up the Play 30 program at Century. The program is for students to get some activity from 7:30 to 8 a.m. before school starts.
"It helps them get the wigglies out before school," Aukes said.
She is married to Cory Aukes. They have two children, Ty and Kate, who attend Century Elementary. She encourages her own children to be active and actually teaches Kate in one of her kindergarten classes.
Aukes continues to push the importance of physical education in school and said it has been an honor to be recognized in that field.
"I just think it's important to give kids a wide variety of activities to try, we all do, and teach them something that will laugh a lifetime," she said.