“It is with the greatest sincerity that I say there could be no place else I would have rather spent the past 24 years,” physical education teacher Liz Giles-Brown said of her career at South Bristol School.
Giles-Brown, who started work at SBS in 1993, resigned her position at the end of the school year to focus on her writing. She hopes to also do consulting with other teachers.
She has previously written three books on physical education and teaching through movement. She authored the “Physical Education Assessment Toolkit,” “Rhyme Time in Physical Education,” and “Rhyme Time Reader.”
She also manages a website on the subject, learningonthemove.org, and has written articles on the subject of physical education.
“Over the years I have become really, really interested in brain-compatible learning, and so I’ve tried to wrap that into my teaching,” Giles-Brown said. “You just remember things better when they rhyme.”
“I’m very interested in bringing more movement into regular classrooms,” she said.
“In the immediate future, I am hoping to pursue a writing opportunity with Human Kinetics Publishing Co. as a platform to further develop some of my methods and ideas,” she said.
“My hope is to eventually work with physical educators and classroom teachers to develop and implement brain-compatible, multi-sensory learning founded in movement,” she said.
SBS Principal Scott White said SBS intends to hire Giles-Brown next year as a physical education and health consultant.
“Her involvement will be instrumental in helping facilitate a smooth transition for our students. Liz will be working closely with her successor, Erin Michaud, next year,” White said.
During her time at SBS, Giles-Brown founded two extracurricular groups. She created the South Bristol Spindrifters in 1998 and the circus arts program in 2007.
The Spindrifters is a traveling precision jump-rope demonstration team that represents the American Heart Association as part of the Jump Rope for Heart program.
According to Giles-Brown, the first team was made up of nine students. Now, 20 years later, about half of the school belongs to the team.
“It’s just been awesome to take a small group of kids from a small school out and watch them be able to get out on the floor and perform for 400-600 other Maine school kids, and to be able to show some things that they’ve worked really hard to master. That in itself is more than jumping rope,” Giles-Brown said.
South Bristol’s circus arts program, named Circus Marinus, was inspired by the Gym Dandies children’s circus in Scarborough, founded by Jon Cahill.
The South Bristol group, made up of students in grades five through eight, meets once a week to practice everything from juggling to riding unicycles.
“I think the thing that makes me happiest is when kids work really, really hard to learn something, and they make that connection. They get it, and they can see the reasons why they got it, or the reasons why they’re able to master new skills,” Giles-Brown said.
Giles-Brown “not only thought about her craft and how she could make lessons more engaging and meaningful for her students, but she actually put her theories and ideas into practice. She was an exemplary teacher and model for all of us,” White said.
Known for signing her correspondence with “yours for healthy, happy, and active children,” Giles-Brown said she always knew she wanted to teach physical education.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire and has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maine at Orono.
In addition to her job at SBS, she was a part-time teacher at Southport Central School from 2008-2016.
“It’s all about trying to help kids learn the skills, knowledge, motivation to lead happy and healthy lives,” she said.
SBS co-workers and students made a video for Giles-Brown ahead of her last day at the school.
In the video, students said, “You taught us life lessons,” “I’ll always remember how much more active and fun your class was,” and “You always had a smile on your face.”
“I will always remember jump-rope club, and to work hard,” one student said.
“I’ll always remember you teaching us grit, and how to bounce back up when things don’t go our way,” another said.
Past students sent in video messages or letters that were read by current students.
“The Spindrifters are one of my favorite memories from South Bristol,” Ashley Sykes, of the class of 2002, said in the video.
SBS staff also had messages for Giles-Brown.
“In your tenure here, I have learned so much from you,” ed tech Terry Mitchell said. “Enjoy whatever you do in the future.”
Giles-Brown has won many awards and honors during her time as a teacher. One of the most recent was in 2016, when she was given the American Society of Health and Physical Education National Jump Rope for Heart Recognition Award for her work with the Spindrifters.
“I’ve been teaching for 31 years, K-8 physical education, and I’ve honestly loved every single minute of it. It’s just time to do something different. I have some other goals,” Giles-Brown said.
“My hope is that the South Bristol School and community continues to support and value the role physical education plays in a child’s education. I wish them great success in the future,” she said.