When fourth-grade teacher Tonya Harman’s Life Group started a “Couch to 5K” program a year ago, the Breckinridge Elementary teacher didn’t expect to be a role model for her students… but that’s exactly what transpired over the next year.
After completing a 5K, Harman ran a 10K, a 10-mile race and then a half-marathon. She lost 30 pounds while training, then launched a Girls on the Run club at school.
With Harman serving as coach and prime example, about 15 thirdthrough-fifth graders trained after school and reached their goal – by the end of the fall semester they completed a 5K at Keeneland.
Setting goals and reaching them is central to Harman’s mission in the classroom. In this interview, Harman referred to goal setting and hard work repeatedly. Those themes are mantras to her – ones she shares with her students.
“As fourth graders, the students are seeing themselves as their own person for the first time,” Harman said. “They have to learn to set goals and work hard to be successful. I’d rather have hard workers who can work with others than students who are just book smart.”
Breckinridge is one of Fayette County’s most diverse schools and Harman joined the staff 14 years ago. She’s taught first, second and fourth grades.
“I got a job here and then fell in love with the students,” she said.
“This is the place that God wants me to be and until I feel differently, this is where I will be.”
Harman not only has a heart for her Breckinridge students, she feels her teaching skills match their needs pretty closely.
“I can really communicate with these kids,” she said. “Along with the content, we teach collaboration and the value of working with others and good social skills.”
Harman, a former Fayette County teacher of the month, has adopted the Kagan Cooperative Learning approach this year, where students work together in groups, and teach and encourage one another.
“I really like it because the kids are talking more with each other and are more engaged,” Harman said. “The students are thinking more in the classroom and everyone is participating. This will help them become more successful.”
In which case, both Harman and her students will reach their goals.