How We Teach: Rachel Colby & Brian O’Connell

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 team teaching post from two great teachers from Maine, USA :

Names: Rachel Colby & Brian O’Connell
Where Are You From: Bar Harbor, Maine USA
Where Do You Teach: Conners Emerson School
One word that best describes how you teach:

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

We would be lost without our iPad minis! They are incredibly portable and have all the apps we need for assessment, skill work, and record keeping.

Google Drive – We use this to keep daily records of our classes, quizzes, student feedback forms, and shared docs for notes and lesson plans.

Ubersense – This is a great app for recording and peer-analyzing skills. It also allows us to share with our PT person and helps track Adapted PE students’ progress.

Twitter – Can we say game changer? The connections we have made to an incredible PE community are endless and are gaining great insight each day.

iTunes/Pandora– We love rocking the gym with great tunes!

What do your #physed classes look like?

The students are excited and ready to learn when they come through the doors. We start off classes with dynamic stretching and simple cardio work for grades 5-8 and locomotor skills for K-4. We then explain the skill tasks and goals for the day and get right into activities. Teaching cues are the focus of skill work and then we bridge them to game and life applications during group activities. Classes finish off with yoga and reflection of the days lesson. K-4 students assess their social responsibility using our PE Superstars bulletin board based on Hellison’s model.

During the K-1 classes we have 8th grade PE buddies that come down and help students who need a little extra practice with skills. This is a great time of community building, role-modelling, and skill reinforcement for all ages.

Team teaching really opens up a lot of opportunities for us. We are able to provide instant feedback to each other on how we think the lesson is going and change things immediately if needed. We are also able to provide more one-on-one skill help to students as one of us can be giving directions to the whole class while the other is re-explaining to students who need extra help.

What’s the most unique thing about your teaching?

We aren’t afraid to take risks and use the resources we have available to us in new and creative ways. We are very fortunate to have Acadia National Park in our backyard and try to utilize it anyway we can. Promoting lifetime fitness and offering a large variety of activities so all students can feel successful is one of the driving forces of our program. In the fall and spring we are able to hike mountains with the entire school.

We also love jumping on any opportunity that gets the students outdoors. After the large snowstorms we had before Christmas we organized a Winter Fest that allowed students to sled, build snow sculptures, and snowshoe.

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

Rachel: “Never underestimate the students. They are your greatest resources and once you stop learning from them then you stop being a teacher.”

Brian: “Kids learn best when they receive specific positive feedback.”

Where can people find you online?

Twitter: @mzunguPEteach
Instagram: @cesphysed

Enjoy this post? Be sure to never miss out on any of’s future posts by connecting with us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Email.


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

Recommended Posts