The Lion's Roar

How a department prepares students for careers

Zachary Araki

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Senior health and physical education major Kayla Panks assists in organizing drills for the Chappapeela Sports Park’s recreational volleyball program. Courtesy of Chappapeela Sports Park

Graduate Assistant in the Office for Student Engagement Tyron’E Hawkins hands a scantron to a student. Zachary Araki/The Lion’s Roar

Two students discussed how they feel the department of kinesiology and health studies has prepared them for their desired careers.

Kayla Panks, a senior health and physical education, grades k-12 major started student teaching at Slidell High School in August. 

“So far, I have really enjoyed student teaching,” said Panks. “I am at Slidell High, and I graduated from Northshore. So walking into the building was kind of hard. But, I’ve learned to love it. I like the teachers that are there. I like the coaches, and I’m really learning a lot over there, so I like it.”

Tyron’E Hawkins, a graduate assistant in the Office for Student Engagement and kinesiology major hopes to attend professional school after graduation, possibly to become a physical therapist. She explained how the kinesiology and health studies department helped her prepare for a career.

“I always say some of the hardest classes I’ve had were the best classes I’ve had because I learned so much about the human body,” said Hawkins. “The good thing in grad school is that even if it’s not hands-on just yet like PT school, there’s a lot of research in the field. Every day, I learn something new, something that I can add, something that would make me set apart as a physical therapist, a specialty I could have. All the research that we do, all of the experiments in the lab, it’s really helping, like Southeastern says, to be real world ready.”

Panks compared the theory taught in classrooms to the actual teaching experience. 

“It’s easy to be a teacher and teach an ideal situation like if you have a group of kindergarteners, put them on these little poly spots and make them stand there, but that’s not gonna happen,” said Panks. “They’re gonna throw the poly spots across the gym. You like to think that, and the kinesiology department does a good job of planning for this but expect this. Our methods classes help us a lot with that. Like I said, we learn ideal situations, but they’re also like, ‘Look, I’m gonna teach you this because it’s curriculum and this is what we do. But here’s what’s probably gonna happen.’ They’re good about telling us that.”

For Panks, methods classes helped prepare her for the reality of the experience.

“Those few field classes we have to take help us prepare a little bit, but it’s nice to be in the classroom seeing the same faces over and over,” said Panks. “Student teaching is a repetitive experience. It’s like being a regular teacher. Going in at first, I was the new kid like the new person on campus. All of the students were like. ‘Who is this person telling me what to do?’ But, they’ve grown to know me, and I’ve built relationships with them.”

Outside of school, Hawkins felt that dancing and being a junior paramedic in Baton Rouge during high school prepared her to narrow down her career interest.

“I got to ride on an ambulance with some of the paramedics, and I even got to do a SWAT team call at a bank robbery,” said Hawkins. “It was amazing, but something like that that gets you in the rush of there could be an injury you have to splint right there. It kind of let me know I didn’t want to do athletic training, sitting on the field waiting for someone to get injured, but it let me know that I want to be in the saving a life or helping a life type of field.”

Coaching softball helped Panks decide on her career path. 

“I’m in it for the kids,” said Panks. “I love the kids. Impacting the kids is really what I want to do, but I’ve played sports my whole life. Just being able to give back, continue to coach and teach kids in and out of school, on and off the field, just altogether.”

Initially, Hawkins planned to attend medical school, but she changed her mind at Freshman Orientation.

“I was sitting there, trying to schedule my classes, and the girl next to me, I was being nosy, and I peeked over at her curriculum,” said Hawkins. “I was like ‘That seems really interesting.’ So, couple years before that, I had actually gotten hurt, and I called my physical therapist. I was like, ‘Hey, can you explain some of these classes to me? Just tell me what’s going on like what kind of career path can I get out of that?’ After about a ten-minute conversation, I fell in love, and ever since then, I switched to kines, and I’ve been physical therapy all the way. It’s the only thing I want to do now.”

Panks offered advice to anyone interested in following the same career path.

“I’ve seen people go into the PE department strictly to be coaches, just to go and collect their teacher paycheck and then get in the field, and I think that gives those kids a chance,” said Panks. “Don’t go into this profession just to be an athletic coach. Do it to benefit kids ‘cause there are so many kids that need help. There are so many kids that are gonna look up to you, so don’t take that position of authority for granted because no matter what kind of socioeconomic status your school is or anything like that, help the kids is my advice. Always help the kids. Be someone for the kids.”

Hawkins advised others to consider what career is the right one for them.

“You have to find something you’re passionate about,” said Hawkins. “I say all the time in kines, if you don’t love it, you won’t excel. That is exactly how it is. If you can’t find a reason every day to go study for that test, a reason that you want to know what this bone is so you can fix it one day, you’re not gonna remember it, you’re not gonna want to do it, and you’re not gonna love it. You have to love it, and you have to be dedicated to it. I was dedicated to learning all 206 bones. It was a challenge, but it was something I knew that I loved.”

Although she has experience playing and coaching softball, Panks is interested in learning more about other sports.

“I’m eager to learn,” said Panks. “The person I’m student teaching under at Slidell High, my mentor teacher is like a phenomenal volleyball coach, was a phenomenal basketball player, so she’s a really good person to learn from. I’m excited to learn more about volleyball.”

Panks shared her thoughts on graduating in December. 

“It is about time,” said Panks. “I took that five-year plan, took that victory lap, so I’m excited to finally be out. I’m excited to actually get into the field, have my own class, do my own thing and put all this work that I’ve put in to use.”

Hawkins felt that her preparation within the kinesiology and health studies department overshadowed any nervousness about her future after graduation.

“I’m more excited than anything,” said Hawkins. “I’m not concerned that I won’t have the foundation to find a job or to find someone in my career that could take me under their wing. I’m not concerned about if I’m going to have the grades, the education or the test scores to get into PT school because I truly do feel prepared.”

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