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Jenn Traynor

Beyond The Gym Floor—Jenn Traynor

Jamie O'Connor, a teaching assistant professor at the University of Illinois, speaks with Jenn Traynor of Monticello Middle School.

Click here to see the full transcript.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Welcome back to Beyond the Gym Floor. I hope everyone is doing well. Just to give you a sense of my personal mental well-being right now, and this is wildly embarrassing, but I'm currently binge watching Cobra Kai in the evenings in order to stay sane. And I know that's sad but that's where we are right now.

So anyway, I'm joined today by Jenn Traynor of Monticello Middle School. Thank you for agreeing to chat with me today Jenn.

JENN TRAYNOR: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: So Jenn, where did you grow up?

JENN TRAYNOR: I'm from Normal, Illinois, so not far from a Champaign area. And then I went to ISU for my undergrad.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Nice. I was just getting ready to ask you. So you did your training at ISU. So what led you to physical education as a career?

JENN TRAYNOR: So I really knew I was interested into the health field. And I love working with kids. And I was kind of in that space of not knowing what to do. And my mom was like, you need to go observe this PE teacher. Just go in and watch her class. And I did and I talked with her. And I just loved that it's kind of like the preventable health versus having to deal with the aftermath, and working with kids and kind of just making them love movement.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: I love that. So in other words, kind of getting ahead of needing to go to the doctor all the time, like let's do something preventable or ahead of time so that you can stay as healthy as possible.


JAMIE O’CONNOR: So over the past semester, what's one online strategy-- and I don't know, at Monticello Middle School are you fully in person at this point? Or are you still remote?

JENN TRAYNOR: We're mostly in person. There are some that chose to be at home. I really use a lot of the open curriculum. It's a free curriculum online and [INAUDIBLE] on their resources. And then workouts have also been great just to send those for examples for those students at home.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: So the open curriculum, I am not sure I am aware of that. So is it really-- is it tailored specifically toward PE?

JENN TRAYNOR: Yes. There's different units for different grade levels. And right now, they have it's called open now. It's kind of a unit for remote learning and just kind of more social distance activities to kind of help teachers out with new ideas.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Have you experienced success with that so far for your kids who are staying home?

JENN TRAYNOR: Yeah. Some of them don't always work. And you kind of tweak them a little bit here and there. But today in class we did their pumpkin. And it's like Halloween activities. We did a couple relays with those. And so those have worked out well.

For middle school they have-- our at home learners use-- they have like a log, a fitness log they can train on. So we are able to send those out to their homes and then kind of daily they can kind of report a log of their activity.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: So in normal circumstances, what would you change about PE as a career if you could?

JENN TRAYNOR: The stigma. I feel like you have your gym class and then your PE class. And obviously want more PE, the education piece is so important. And I feel like sometimes the stigma of gym class and the devaluing of it, so making sure people are aware of the education that's along with PE.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Do you find that you have to fight that a lot in Monticello? I know that you all are a very highly respected educational district. Do you still feel the stigma there?

JENN TRAYNOR: I think a little bit sometimes. But I think that, it's my second year here, and so we've been able to just kind of-- my partner and I have the same mindset. And so we're able to both kind of show students and families what PE looks like here. And East Peoria and I've seen more of that there, just with lower income different backgrounds of parents' experiences.

I think parents, if they had a school where that was their experience, that's kind of their mindset is, and with any educational system.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: We have to break the cycle. You know, it is funny. The parents who have experienced kind of a negative atmosphere in PE when they were growing up tend to devalue it for their children. So we have to break that cycle.

JENN TRAYNOR: Yep. Exactly.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: So what's the most important lesson your students have taught you over your two-year career?

JENN TRAYNOR: Not to give up. So this is my sixth year teaching, just the second year here. But I just like the not to give up. Because just when you can work with a student and they can just keep trying a skill and keep trying an activity, and then it finally clicking for them. And even for teachers just not to give up and just keep trying finding different ways to explain something or demonstrate, and just to keep powering through it or working with the student that doesn't like PE, and keep trying to find ways to engage them.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: You mentioned those students who don't particularly like PE. How do you try to reach them?

JENN TRAYNOR: I think a relationship is key. So whether it's just asking questions every day, ask them about their day, ask them about other parts of their life that they do like, and then trying to just get them more on my side and having a relationship with me. And then I can kind of help buy into my activities and help them find enjoyment in different things.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Any advice you would share with the current cohort of Illinois undergrads who are thinking about following kind of this career path?

JENN TRAYNOR: Stick with it. The first year or two of any teaching, any level, any grade level, any type of teaching, the first year or two can be challenging just because you're getting used to a school and that whole environment and sticking with it and not giving up.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: I like that. A teaching highlight that comes to mind either from Peoria or your time now in Monticello.

JENN TRAYNOR: So I don't have like a moment that was a highlight, but I think any time a student, it just clicks for them, say they jump rope. At the elementary level and the middle school, we're doing jump rope now because it's social distancing and all of those fun guidelines. I just have a student that might struggle with a skill or an activity for jump rope, for example, and just how frustrated they get. And then once they practice and practice, then they can get that skill and like, I did it, like that a-ha moment is just really rewarding.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Love that. So as a kind of central Illinois hometown hero, so the people need to know a few extra things about you Jenn. And I'm assuming your students will be tuning in to this podcast. So if you weren't a teacher, what would you be doing? I know that's hard because when you talk to teachers, they feel like they've wanted to do this for so long. But if you had to choose another profession, if you could no longer be a teacher, what would you do?

JENN TRAYNOR: And that's a hard question. But I think probably something like community health, whether it's health department or just something that's more outreach in the community.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: So are you an early bird or a night owl?

JENN TRAYNOR: I think it depends on the time of the year. So in the summer when I'm not working definitely more of a night owl. But with school I go to bed really early and I wake up at an earlier time to get things done and kind of get my day started off.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: What's go to bed early for you?

JENN TRAYNOR: Early is like 9:30.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: 9:30. OK. I thought you were going to say-- because I feel like I go to bed early and it's like 9:30, 10:00. And other people will say, I go to bed so early, I go to bed at 11:00. And I'm just like, I think we have a different definition of early. I'm with your definition.

JENN TRAYNOR: We're on the same page.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Yes. So what's your typical go-to breakfast?

JENN TRAYNOR: Overnight oats.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Overnight oats?

JENN TRAYNOR: Just like oatmeals. There's different ways you can spice up with fruit or just different toppings. And it's just on the go. It's really great. I like breakfast. I think it's important but I'm also not a huge sit down, eat my breakfast. I want it on the go and ready to get my day started.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Are you a consistency type of person? Like you like to do the same type of breakfast every day?

JENN TRAYNOR: I like to change up some just because I get tired of it. But usually the same kind of repeats of the different items. Definitely a meal planner.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Meal planner. So what's your favorite guilty sort of guilty pleasure fast food? Like if you had to stop on a road trip for fast food, what would it be?

JENN TRAYNOR: Chick Fil A for sure.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Everyone loves Chick Fil A. Your favorite TV show that you might watch in the evenings when you're settling down?

JENN TRAYNOR: Right now it's been New Girl and The Office. Those are kind of my two. I've been switching off on Netflix.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: I love that. I kind of like going back. Like I'm currently re-watching How I Met Your Mother on Hulu. And I love kind of diving into an old comedy. It feels comforting. And again, I embarrassingly am really actually enjoying Cobra Kai. It's bringing me back to my memory of watching the Karate Kid over and over and over again as a child.

JENN TRAYNOR: I've actually never heard of that one.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Oh, yeah. And if you were a child in the '80s, listeners, you will absolutely love it. It is both terrible and amazing all in the same moment. So well, Jenn, thank you so much for being a guest on Beyond the Gym Floor and have a wonderful day.

JENN TRAYNOR: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

JAMIE O’CONNOR: Thank you so much for being a guest on Beyond the Gym Floor. And if you would like to be a guest or simply have a comment or a question, you can reach me, Jamie O'Connor, at Encourage your friends to listen and subscribe to the show either through iTunes, iHeart Radio, or Spotify. Thanks for listening, folks.

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