This month Playworks Utah is honoring Americorps Member Hannah Brock for her outstanding work at East Midvale Elementary. Hannah is a first year coach who recently moved to Utah from Texas. Her innovative work getting the students to line-up quickly and quietly have made her extremely popular with teachers and administrators, while her gentle nature and patient attitude have made her a favorite with students. Learn more about Coach Hannah and her work at East Midvale:
What is your background and experience?
Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted to work with kids. I loved playing ‘teacher’ with my little sisters, I loved babysitting, and I loved going through the leadership program at my summer camp (Rocky River Ranch) where we got “little sisters” and learned how to be responsible camp counselors. I attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas where I received my teaching degree and got a dual certification in Early Childhood through sixth grade and special education.
I loved this experience and I thank my professors every day for providing me with such a valuable education through this program. My private, liberal arts university gave me a chance to start observing and doing placements the very first semester of college. I had placements in countless schools and grades, and I was supported through each step of the way. I continued to work at summer camp through college, as well as at an Austin nonprofit, Girlstart, which promotes STEM for girls. These experiences developed my interest in nonprofits and more nontraditional ways of influencing children’s lives.
What drew you to being a coach with Playworks?
Summer camp is my favorite place in the world. I grew up going every summer, and as I became a staff member I loved it even more. I loved summer camp because I saw children grow more than I had ever seen before. They got to be outside for hours at a time, discover nature, swim in the river; they learned their strength by rock climbing, horse back riding, and archery, and they learned many important social skills. They understood that they weren’t going to get in trouble if they didn’t know something; they weren’t afraid of failing because the worst possible outcome would be to simply try againl. They weren’t spending hours being tested and they were not stressed over homework.
I loved seeing the change these children underwent in just one week, and even more during two-week sessions. I wish I saw the kind of growth that results from low-stakes outdoor play more often in schools. I loved my student teaching experience but I was looking for something different. One of my camp directors suggested I look up Playworks because a former staff member (Allie Teller) had gotten a job there and loved it. I looked the program up and I knew that it was where I belonged.
What are some highlights of your program at your school?
I have a lot of experience with kindergarten and special education, school placements, science lessons and girls camp activities. This sports thing, not really my thing. When I began this job I felt extremely nervous. I didn’t know much about sports and I don’t have a booming voice. However, after the first few weeks of being overwhelmed and trying to scream louder and louder without sounding mad, I decided I needed to change things up and make my program my OWN with my personality, and my sparkle. And that’s exactly what I did, I added sparkles! I created a board for each grade, a board that was very “me.” Each board is decorated with gold sparkles and has a neatly painted “QUICK AND QUIET” on it. Each class from each grade has a chance to earn this board twice every day. They are required to be the quickest and quietest for two recesses in a row before getting to write their teacher’s name on it. If a teacher has their name on the board 10 times the students in that class get an extra recess. The entire school is extremely enthusiastic about it, and when it comes to lining up, every class is extremely quick and quiet. These days it is so hard to choose a winner! This contest is just one aspect of my program. I believe that getting the children transitioned from play mode to classroom mode is extremely important in order to have a productive school day.
What’s your favorite part about being an AmeriCorps member?
I wake up every morning knowing that I am making a difference in children’s lives. I have been so blessed with a wonderful family who has supported me through every stage of my life (even when I decided to pick up and move to Utah right after graduation!) I know that many children have not had the opportunities that I have had, and I love to be able to give back and to serve children and make a difference in their lives. I am so grateful to all of the other AmeriCorps members across the nation for their year(s) of service.