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Beyond The Gym Floor-Kristin Allen

Jamie O'Connor, a Teaching Associate Professor in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, speaks with Kristin Allen, a physical education teacher at Mahomet-Seymour High School in Mahomet, Illinois, about what led her to her current career.

Click here to see the full transcript.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Kristin Allen of Mahomet. First of all, I just have to tell the thousands of listeners at home-- you're laughing at me, Kristin. There could be thousands. I've probably e-mailed you 50 times in the past few months with various requests, and you have said yes to them all. Let's review them.

Number one, I asked if you would be a cooperating teacher for one of our teacher candidates. You said yes. I asked if I could bring a class of undergraduates to wreak havoc on your physical education classes this spring. You said yes. I asked if you would be a guest on this illustrious podcast. You said yes. I asked you if you would watch my two children all weekend while I see seven to eight feature films.



JAMIE O'CONNOR: You said yes! So thank you so much, Kristin Allen of Mahomet-Seymour High School. Thank you for joining me on Beyond the Gym Floor. Welcome.


JAMIE O'CONNOR: So tell me a little bit about your role at Mahomet.

KRISTIN ALLEN: So I teach physical education, and we're 9 12. It's a mix in all the classes. I teach regular PE and then I also teach the conditioning, which is the strength and conditioning. So there's only two of us that teach that.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Very nice. When did you know that you first wanted to be a PE teacher?

KRISTIN ALLEN: It's a loaded question for me. This is my third career.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: OK, tell me more!

KRISTIN ALLEN: I didn't always know that I wanted to. I got my undergrad in athletic training.


KRISTIN ALLEN: Indiana State.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Indiana State.

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yep, so a Bachelor of Science in kinese with athletic training. And then I went and got my Masters and worked for Carl Sports Medicine here. And then decided to be a police officer.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Seriously?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yeah! Why not, right? With the Champagne County Sheriff's Office. And then loved it, but I missed the sports. I missed teaching the fitness component. And the schedule was hard as a police officer. So the answer to all of those was education, and why not physical education.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Oh my gosh. So how long were you a police officer?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Not very long. Almost four years, I think?

JAMIE O'CONNOR: That's a long time!

KRISTIN ALLEN: Three years, yeah. It felt longer some nights.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: See, now I want to start a new podcast and ask you questions about some of your experiences as a police officer. Because I find that so fascinating. But maybe we'll do that another time.

KRISTIN ALLEN: I'll probably say yes.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: You will definitely say yes, Kristin. So that's an interesting journey.


JAMIE O'CONNOR: Not a lot of people experience-- usually folks realize, and during their undergrad, sometimes even before undergrad, like while they're in high school, I love my PE teacher because he or she is also like a coach and a mentor and I know I want to do this. So that's an interesting journey.

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yeah, I didn't actually have the greatest experience in PE. I waived. I was an athlete. I waived, which I hate that now, right, as a PE teacher.


KRISTIN ALLEN: So that was part of it once I decided to switch careers is to be better.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Yeah, to be better. I love that. And I hope that that's something where here at the University of Illinois that we're instilling that among our undergraduate students. Is just having some sort of a concept of the new PE. How can we do things differently from the folks from the old guard? And it's just, it's a mission of mine to just restructure the way we do things.

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yes. And there are a lot of excellent physical education teachers that are doing that right now.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Oh, absolutely. Without fail. And so that's why I'm so glad that we have a teacher candidate with you this spring to learn from you and hopefully you'll have a positive experience with her.

So you just mentioned that you waived PE when you were in high school. So did you have, even at the elementary level, a physical educator who mattered to you?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yes, and that was the one time. It was elementary who ended up being my high school cross country and track coach.


KRISTIN ALLEN: Yeah, he moved to the high school and actually taught history. But he taught PE in elementary. We loved it.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: What appealed to you about him?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Very charismatic, the relationship building, with all of the students, even at a young age. I mean, and then I'm biased because he ended up being my coach. So I got to know him over a lot of years. Still stay in contact with him and his family.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: That's great. That's great. What would you change about our discipline if you could? So, you know, what challenges do you still feel like you face?



KRISTIN ALLEN: That old school, that old school mindset of I'm coach, roll the ball out, and it's not from necessarily educators or administration. It's the students and maybe parents who experienced that. And it's not a lot, but it's still there. But that I do use that to motivate me every day to move past that, and to show that it's not-- physical education can be a subject that helps all of the other curriculums in the building.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Absolutely.

KRISTIN ALLEN: And when we look at it that way, you know, it can change a mindset.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Do you feel like you're still battling that with parents and even students? Or are they buying into what you're selling?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Mahomet is great, and I think, yes, because it's been that way for a while. The culture has been great with previous PE teachers. But yes, so I'll get a few questions like from the students, oh, so how do you become a PE teacher? And then they're shocked when it's the same as a regular, like, classroom teacher. And you know, just that mindset of not-- you know, we're not in a classroom. We don't assign a bunch of homework. But it's still very beneficial.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Got it, that's great. What's the most important lesson your students have taught you?

KRISTIN ALLEN: To listen. Stop and listen, to them first and to give them an opportunity to actually be heard. In any lesson, whether it's small or not, I mean in the weight room especially. And to hear their experiences, their concerns, their suggestions, that was a huge thing early on. And police, being in the police, that taught me how to talk to people and my relationship building. So education has taught me to listen a little more to what they want.

Because that's why I'm here. I'm here for them to enjoy movement and to be able to make the decisions later on when they're out of school that will help their body stay healthy and their mind stay healthy. And if I'm not listening to what they want or what they're interested in, then how are they gonna relate later on and remember oh, that's what Mrs. Allen was talking about. This fitness class, or you know, this, so it comes from them first.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Was it difficult to make that transition from, I mean, being a police officer, you're kind of a boss in a way.

KRISTIN ALLEN: I'm still a boss.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: You're still a boss. But that listening component, was it difficult to?

KRISTIN ALLEN: You had to listen as a police officer, you know? But way different situations. I mean, it was. I think I was probably a little more bossy.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: In the beginning?

KRISTIN ALLEN: I spoke first maybe.


KRISTIN ALLEN: But it's very similar. It's about talking to people, and with people, and building relationships.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Like that first elementary PE teacher that you had. Do you still use him as a role model?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yes, absolutely.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: That's so great. Now even though it sounds like you are a top notch physical educator, how do you motivate those who are disengaged?

KRISTIN ALLEN: I don't really know. I've been told that I do. I just, I always try to figure out why they don't want to move, you know, in PE or why first. You know, you have to address the issue and say, hey, we need you to move. But then to step back and try to get to know them and determine why. Almost, maybe, that's my police the investigator kind of thing.

Because there's always a reason, whether it was a bad experience in PE before or they're just having a bad day or something. But trying to find that. And then at Mahomet, they have a lot of student choice with activities in regular PE. So I try to provide units that I teach that they want. So I go out and try to find new ones. So bringing new units to the school, getting out of my comfort zone to maybe teach something that I'm not comfortable with. But do the homework, learn it, because it's what the kids want.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Have you had success stories?


JAMIE O'CONNOR: With reaching someone who's previously disinterested?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yes. And it usually, unfortunately, I think with teachers, we don't really find out ever or it's later on. So I live in the Mahomet community. So it always happens, whether it's at the grocery store, maybe Walgreens. I'll run into a former student. And the best thing that can ever, they could ever say to me is, and they usually do is, I took this class at the Y. Because I do a lot of fitness type classes.

And then they'll tell me like, that that was their favorite part of PE. When before maybe they didn't like necessarily the traditional units, game like activities.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: So it's never gonna happen in the moment, but years later, running into them at the grocery store.

KRISTIN ALLEN: So it helps. It helps me. Because then it reassures that I'm doing something that they enjoy, that maybe they'll choose later on in life.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: I love it. I love it. So any advice you would share for someone who is not considering a career in law enforcement? Who they know they want to be a PE teacher as soon as they graduate?

KRISTIN ALLEN: You know, hold on to why, and hopefully you know, the why is because you want to do this. It's about movement. It's about staying healthy, being healthy, and keep an open mind and never stop learning. Don't get stuck. Because we're all guilty of that.

You know, always look for a better way, or a way that some other teacher's doing it that would work for you. Or learning, go to conferences, go to all kinds of continuing ed. One, that's going to help your students, and two, that's going to help keep you from getting burnt out. A new activity gives all of us, you know, a sense of purpose and energy, and it's motivating, so.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Excellent. Do you have a teaching highlight that comes to mind, a moment where something just connected?

KRISTIN ALLEN: It just happened, so that's probably why it's fresh. So I teach at like, I'm a pound fit instructor, which is cardio drumming. It's one of those.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: I need to come see that.

KRISTIN ALLEN: You should do it.

I had a student, current student, she brought me in a newspaper, it was a magazine article that her mom found. And it was about cardio drumming and how it helped this woman with osteoporosis. And she brought it to me, and she's like, my mom and I wanted you to see this. This is so cool, Mrs. Allen.

Like the fact, I mean, that was cool. And that just happened, so it's fresh in my mind.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: No, I love it. Because it shows that you-- they're leaving your class, and they're still thinking about the experiences they've had.

KRISTIN ALLEN: It wasn't a school. I think the woman was 41 in the article.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: I love it. Thank you. So Kristin, since you're a hometown hero, clearly, the public, especially your current and your former students need to know what do you listen to in the car, when you're driving?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Oh, man. Sometimes it's Frozen 2. Because of my seven year old daughter. All kinds of music. Used to have a playlist. My pound playlist, because I'm always practicing my new choreography. So I'm drumming in the car if you ever see me.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: What's part of that playlist? What's one that is really good for cardio drumming?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Oh, all of it. I knew you'd ask me. Hit the Road Jack. And don't ask me the artist. That's the great thing about pound. It's all these genre, a little Salt N Pepa.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Oh, nice. Old school.





KRISTIN ALLEN: I mean, you know.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: You mix it up a little bit.

KRISTIN ALLEN: Oh my gosh, yes, it's music.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: What about your favorite snack? Your go to?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Don't make fun of me.



JAMIE O'CONNOR: Your favorite snack is tuna?


JAMIE O'CONNOR: OK, you just failed this entire interview. Your favorite toy as a kid?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Oh, man. I don't remember what it was. You know those things, the sit and spin? Or the bouncy?

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Oh, the sit and spin? Oh, gosh, my son loves that and I can't even watch him do it.

KRISTIN ALLEN: I didn't do it correctly. It was usually ornery with a younger sister and getting me dizzy.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: OK, yeah. I can't even watch my son do the sit and spin. It just, it makes me want to throw up. Your first concert?

KRISTIN ALLEN: Oh, my gosh. And you gave me these ahead of time.


KRISTIN ALLEN: I know, right? Probably Bob Schneider, which--

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Bob Schneider. I'm going to be entirely honest. I don't know who that is.

KRISTIN ALLEN: You probably don't, because he's an Austin artist.


KRISTIN ALLEN: But he doesn't-- he's not like a huge, but he still like tours. But I've been to a lot of smaller.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: What is he, is he country?

KRISTIN ALLEN: He's very eclectic. I mean, he plays tons of instruments, the band. Now I know what you're gonna Google.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: I'm gonna Google it. I'm gonna look that up.

KRISTIN ALLEN: I'm a teacher, I'm trying to educate. There you go.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: So, finally, when you're not inspiring this next generation of active movers, what TV show do you look forward to watching?

KRISTIN ALLEN: I don't watch a lot of TV! I'm really boring.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: You are really boring.

KRISTIN ALLEN: It used to be Modern Family, and my husband and I now we have the box set, all the DVDs of Everybody Loves Raymond.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: OK, what's a DVD? I'm just kidding.

KRISTIN ALLEN: Yeah, I know right?

JAMIE O'CONNOR: So you watch DVDs of Everybody Loves Raymond.

KRISTIN ALLEN: Right. Now we're on that. It was the Newhart show.

JAMIE O'CONNOR: Oh my gosh.


JAMIE O'CONNOR: You're exposing a lot in this interview. You're no longer a hometown hero, Kristin. Thank you. I'm just teasing, of course.

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, iHeartRadio, or Spotify. Thanks for listening, folks. Kristin is parked illegally and needs to get to her car ASAP. Take care.

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