Teacher exercises pupils' minds and bodies

Julia Coleman Vagovic turns the gymnasium at Monte Sano Elementary School into a classroom.

"I try to combine mental work with physical work," the physical education teacher said. "I'm a big advocate for brain gym, where the children cross the center and do things to engage their brain and keep them active."

She has her pupils write sentences to describe activities they do in the gym. They also use math to create graphs to illustrate activities, such as the number of steps they take per day.

"I think most people, especially children, learn better when they have to apply what they're being taught," she said. "The key is being able to apply those concepts in different activities."

However, promoting a healthful lifestyle is her main goal, said Mrs. Vagovic, who has taught at the school for 13 years.

"I try to keep the children as active as possible. We have a huge problem with childhood obesity in our society," she said. "So what I try to teach is more of a lifestyle education. Even if they don't want to be athletes, we teach them the importance of taking care of their bodies and how to stay healthy."

She keeps the pupils engaged by doing different activities in each class, she said.

"It allows them to use a lot of their creativity, and it helps to keep their attention," she said. "I also try to keep them busy by having them explore and expand on what they learned the day before. Each day is a day of learning."

It's the everyday joys of seeing her pupils learn and grow that fuel her passion for teaching, she said.

"The reward in teaching comes in little bits all the time," she said. "Every day, you're reminded why you are here and why you enjoy it so much. I absolutely love it!"

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

TEACHER OF THE MONTH: JULIA COLEMAN VAGOVIC

FAMILY: Husband, Peter

SCHOOL: Monte Sano Elementary

GRADES TAUGHT: Kindergarten through fifth grades

SUBJECT: Physical education

YEARS TEACHING AT THE SCHOOL: 13

NOMINATOR'S QUOTE: "Mrs. Vagovic is an excellent teacher," co-worker Jessica Moleb said. "She motivates the students to learn through moving. She also encourages the teachers to move and stay active. She has great ideas and is always prepared for whatever the kids bring into the gym."

WHAT IS COMMUNITY COUNTS?

Community Counts is The Augusta Chronicle's collaborative effort to benefit the communities in our area. This multitiered program of involvement includes recognition of outstanding youths, teachers, volunteers and public servants in the area.

Nomination forms are available online at augustachronicle.com/communitycounts or you can contact Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

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