How I Teach: Krista Smeltzer

The more I teach, the more I realize how lucky I am to be a part of the #physed community. Every day, I find myself being inspired and wowed by this group of amazing teachers from around the world. That’s why I’ve decided to take a second each week and highlight one of these incredible educators. This week’s post is by someone who has been a role model for me both as a teacher and as a leader. I was lucky enough to get to work with her while she was President of the Association of Physical Educators of Quebec. Without further ado, here’s this week’s post by one of the best teachers I know:

Name: Krista Smeltzer
Where Are You From: Brossard, Quebec
Where Do You Teach: Champlain College- St. Lambert
One word that best describes how you teach:

What apps/tools/resources can’t you live without?

I’m a bit new to using technology within the gym, but I definitely cannot survive without it for my preparation! Currently, I am using Interval Timer for creating Tabata workouts. I recently purchased an iPad and am excited to start using Coach’s Eye and video in my practical ultimate Frisbee course and classes that involve weight training movements. In one of my courses, Total Body Conditioning, I have integrated the use of a blog to mentor students through a 5km Learn-to-Run program with every student commenting on questions related to the run program posted on the blogposts. In the Nutrition & Health Management course I teach, I have added a class Twitter account (@champlainFFT… Champlain Food for Thought) to post articles and comments related to class. I would love to someday try having a scrolling Twitter feed while teaching during a class. Also in the nutrition class, students have the opportunity to use apps such as Calorie Count or Lose It for nutritional analysis of their weekly diets.
The program I can truly not live without has to be Pages – it has created a college-wide physical education manual, weight training manual, and student resource manuals! I look forward to getting all of these documents more interactive through the use of QR codes and video demonstrations.

What do your #physed classes look like?

Teaching at a college is a bit different than when I taught elementary or secondary. I see my students for one 2-hour class a week, for 15 weeks. Our courses fall under 3 levels: an introductory course that is half activity and half health theory; a practical course where students learn a new sport/activity, set goals, and improve; and a final course where students create and implement a personal program. I teach courses such as Yoga, Ultimate Frisbee, Circuit Training, Total Body Conditioning, Fit for Life, and Games. For classes such as ultimate Frisbee or Games, every class begins with 10 minutes of self-directed activity by the students, followed by a games-related warmup. I teach using TGfU, often integrated within a part Sport Education model. There is a significant amount of written work related to health and activity theory, student development of skill and attitudes, and connecting the students lifestyle habits with their overall health.

For my fitness classes, I focus a lot of proper and natural technique using a lot of body weight exercises that students can use at home or in their own gyms. I absolutely love HIIT training (although the students sometimes wince at my glee!) and using my yoga background to focus on quality stretching and relaxation. I am really big on creating options and offering modifications where every student can be successful.

Finally, there is always music and jokes (although the students say some are not funny, but then again, nothing is funny while in a plank…)!

If I had to sum up my teaching it would be energetic, lots of activity, theory for understanding, and very student-focused.

What’s the most unique thing about your teaching?

I’m not sure that anything is unique per se, but I really try to create purposeful activities and assignments that relate to the students. I try to foster a student connection to an activity or assignment by bringing their personal interests and backgrounds (such as art or photography) into it. I also like the element of giving options and choices when possible!

For example, in my Yoga course, I have a personal assignment where students have the opportunity to either participate in a community yoga class, create a children’s yoga book, or create a project of their choice. I’ve received some amazing sculptures, videos, and projects that I would never have imagined!

In my Fit For Life course there is an out-of-class component. I gave students a list of about 100 activities on the first day of class and asked them to highlight in different colors the activities they love, ones they’ve tried and don’t like, and ones that they have never tried. The next class, students were given an assignment to select three of the activities they’ve never tried and research local organizations or places to do the activities. They then had to go and physically try one of the activities. Some students tried Zumba, cross country skiing, road biking, Trampolining, rock climbing, skiing, skeet shooting, snowshoeing, hot yoga, sailing, Crossfit, and even ballet.

In my Total Body Conditioning class, I integrated a 5km training program with an in class ‘graduation’ 5km run, and another choice assignment of participating in a local charity 5km race or writing a running interest paper. Out of 60 students, 50 ran in local races such as the Terry Fox, the Color Run, Montreal Race weekend, the inaugural Champlain College Community Run, and even the Santa Shuffle.

Finally, in my ultimate Frisbee class, 10 weeks are dedicated to a Sport Education model where students have to create teams, team jerseys, weekly spirit prizes and a team newsletter. Yes, not original, but over the past four years, there have been a total of 15 absences, which is about 90% less than the average PE course. Students in the ultimate course also attend a community ultimate Frisbee game and communicate with the players to ask questions.

What’s the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?

Be yourself and be passionate about what you do! My first year field experience supervisor said this to me in the spring of 2000 and it has been one of those phrases that has stuck with me in all areas of my life. When I think of the teachers that I have connected with and learned the most from (even if I disliked the subject), they were completely themselves and utterly passionate about what they were teaching. Doing what your passionate about and teaching with passion goes a long way to encouraging students to find their own passion!

Where can people find you online?

Twitter: @kristasmeltzer or @champlainFFT


and usually commenting on one of Joey’s blogposts!

I have two blogs, but I am the most inconsistent blogger ever! Perhaps writing this will encourage me to jump back on the wagon!


Joey Feith is the founder of He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

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