If you’re in Jo Ann McConeghy’s health class, be prepared to get up and move.
She’s a believer in “active learning,” which sometimes entails things like seeing how many push-ups you can do, rather than just reading about it in a textbook.
Part of her approach is attributed to her past experience teaching Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), which she’s taught the majority of her career. It’s a subject that lends itself to more interaction with things like daily labs, something that McConeghy has missed since taking on ninth-grade health at Prairieview in Waukee.
But she’s found ways to make her class more interactive, which, she laughs, can get to be loud, but also fun.
“I have them try things and do things,” McConeghy says. “I don’t think we have to be quiet to learn. I think they actually learn more… and they remember it more.”
This will be McConeghy’s 34th year teaching, spending all except two years in Waukee.
She’s seen much in Waukee and its schools change over time, including when there were just two school buildings. When she first began teaching in the district, there were no phones in the classrooms, she recalls. Warrior Lane was a gravel road and there was one small grocery store.
Over the years, McConeghy has taught health and FCS. The most challenging part of her work is making sure that she’s well-rested and well-nourished every day for her students.
“Teenagers have a lot of energy, and when you get to be 15, I think you’re trying to strike out on your own and seeking out independence and things like that,” she says. “I want to be the best teacher I can be for every single one of my students. I have to be in good shape to serve them well.”
Seeing students learn and grow up, become confident and able to seek out their own information is one of the things McConeghy enjoys about her job. Another aspect is the relationships she’s been able to form with students over time. Some come back to visit her. Others have sent her graduation, wedding and baby announcements.
“Just the connections is an awesome thing,” McConeghy says.