Dawn Kilstrom’s health education class at Urbandale High School is not your parent’s health class.
For that matter, it probably is unlike the one you took in high school, too, if you are old enough to remember having to patiently sit through old, stoic films about reproduction and wellness.
Though the state dictates the curriculum Kilstrom teaches to each of the more than 1,200 students at Urbandale High School, the veteran teacher of 25 years implements a variety of teaching methods to educate teenagers about important issues such as reproduction, mental health, fitness, nutrition, diseases, the environment and death. Key among those teaching techniques, Kilstrom says, is making a real-world connection with each student.
“All I have to do is ask them about their parents or their grandparents, and they start talking about things that they have seen in their life,” says Kilstrom, who has taught health at Urbandale High School for 15 years. “For example, when we talk about heart disease, which is the number one killer in the United States, chances are they have someone in their family who has been affected by it. They have a sincere interest in learning about it because it pertains to their life.”
On average, Kilstrom’s class contains 25 to 30 students, most of whom are freshmen. She says she prefers working with high school students as opposed to younger students because they are more mature.
“You can have adult-like conversations with them,” she says.
Also, Kilstrom says the students at the high school are “good kids,” and she enjoys the newly-renovated workplace and devoted staff, all of which make her job more rewarding.
“It’s a great place to teach,” she says.