Students at Shadow Oaks Elementary are very fortunate to have Darlene Evans at their school. Darlene is the Kinesthetic Interventionist/Behavior Specialist at the school and has a strong passion for physical activity and play. She says, “I believe in recess, daily recess.” It is this belief that led Darlene to take action to ensure that all the kids at her school have the opportunity to engage in safe, meaningful play, every school day.
This year, Shadow Oaks Elementary signed up for Playworks Texas’ TeamUp Service, a program that requires partner schools to identify a staff member interested in being a Recess Coach. Darlene jumped at the opportunity, “I love what Playworks does in regards to team building and student leadership. I love all the cheers, the high fives—just the camaraderie and how easy the games are with minimal equipment and engaging all students. So when they said, ‘How about Playworks? I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
TeamUp relies on schools that value recess but are interested in taking it to the next level, making recess a vibrant landscape where children learn new social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Darlene and Shadow Oaks are a perfect fit for TeamUp.
In TeamUp, Playworks partners with elementary schools by providing a part-time on-site coordinator to teach, model, and empower a sustainable recess program. Playworks Texas’ Site Coordinator is Rose Alvarez. She says, “Working with Darlene has been a breath of fresh air and a great learning experience for me. Darlene has a passion for working with children and is highly skilled in doing so. She is a wonderful leader and role-model for the kids and anyone working in the Health and Fitness realm.”
Rose Alvarez models techniques like attention getters and healthy transitions for Darlene to use to bring recess to the next level. “I love the clap where you count down, like 10 (claps)… 9 (claps)… 8 (claps)…. Absolutely fantastic! So I’ve even incorporated that into my motor lab which helps. It’s fabulous!” Darlene says.
Program Director Lawrence English also gets to spend time with Darlene. During the three weeks when Site Coordinator Rose is visiting other schools, he visits Shadow Oaks, evaluates the program, and offers consultation as needed.
Lawrence says, “Darlene wants recess to be a valuable asset during the school day and she’s got a do-it mentality; she’s a go-getter. With a little bit of support it’s amazing how much she’s progressed the Playworks TeamUp program.”
Shadow Oaks had Playworks Coach Service for the past 3 years. Playworks Coach provides elementary schools with a full-time recess coach, throughout the school day and after school. Darlene says she sees the difference. “Our 4th and 5th graders who have had Playworks for the last 3 years, their recess, that is absolutely why it is running itself because we’ve got teachers engaged, teachers monitoring and those Junior Coaches, those 4th and 5th graders know what to do.” Now, Shadow Oaks has transitioned to the Playworks TeamUp program to empower their staff to carry this work forward.
Darlene has been a Health and Fitness teacher her entire career. She’s a native Houstonian and a graduate of University of Houston, where she played volleyball. She loves spending time with her family and not surprisingly loves playing games. She says, “Card games, dominoes, any kind of game. I’m ready to play!”
Darlene is always ready to bring out the best in Shadow Oaks students through the power of play! She knows how to support her students using Playworks’ unique strategies. Darlene says, “The high fives—love that, because the brain loves novelty, the brain loves to socially interact and so when we make contact with someone else we’re feeling validated. All these things go into increasing student attendance, building self-esteem, and really that leads also to academic success, because when they feel better about themselves they have that growth mindset, that ‘I can do anything.’”
Here at Playworks Texas we give you a high five Darlene! Thank you for all you do for Playworks and for all the kids we serve.