For more than three decades, Hilary Strickland has had a wonderful track record as a physical education teacher at Eakin Elementary School.
Strickland, who has lived in Nashville since she was 4 years old and attended Julia Green Elementary, followed a shared family passion for tennis to become a scholarship athlete in college and an instructor at a club as she found her way to teaching at Eakin more than 30 years ago.
Strickland’s core value is that no matter a student’s background, understanding, or ability level, any child can succeed in learning how to adopt a successful and healthy lifestyle.
“I do my best to make movement and learning about nutrition and mindfulness interesting and fun,” she said. “P.E. easily incorporates issues of self-discipline, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, courage, cooperation, caring, trusting, social-emotional well-being, and reflection. All of these ideals and skills help support the whole child.”
In the fall and spring, Strickland teaches two one-hour tennis classes/lessons every day after school to interested Eakin students. The second hour often includes former students, parents, and even colleagues. This supports Eakin’s strong value of community. In the winter, her favorite thing to do is form and coach various basketball teams, who then play other elementary schools in the district.
As with most everyone, the pandemic has affected Strickland’s life both personally and professionally.
“Since I lead a regularly active life, the pandemic forced me to slow down and relax. I especially enjoyed spending time with my husband, partaking in all our outside activities, like gardening,” she said.
“I must confess, teaching P.E. virtually was difficult at times. It wasn’t just teaching health and wellness but taking the whole world of exercise and movement and minimizing it down to a computer screen. You always had to remember this was happening in someone’s living room, kitchen, or bedroom. Equipment was not available, so you had to think creatively to substitute common household items, like socks.”
As a person who believes in the benefits of daily exercise, movement, and health, Strickland’s advice for students and families experiencing loss due to the pandemic includes ways to reduce stress and pain.
“It is a scientific fact that movement increases endorphins in your brain, which can help improve your outlook and ease stress in your life,” she said.
When asked about the importance of P.E./wellness in a post-pandemic world, Strickland said now, more than ever, she hopes people of all ages realize the importance of their health: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
“A health class in school can teach concepts and skills, but to include them in your lifestyle, this has to come from home. It is greatly beneficial if the parents are role models for their children. It takes educators who genuinely care to shape our students, and it takes family who truly cares to shape educators. I am blessed enough to have inherited this from my own family and to have the opportunity to pass it along to all of my students and athletes I have had the chance to work with.”
Strickland’s advice for new MNPS employees to have a joyful, successful career includes, but it is not limited to:
- Being good to yourself.
- Enjoying your evenings, weekends, and breaks.
- Putting your family first.
- Getting to know the building and everybody who works there.
- Being a team player.
- Spending time with every child. Get to them and know their families.
Outside of her busy career in MNPS, Strickland enjoys spending time with her friends, who play a vital part in her daily life. “They are always there to support, listen, and give advice, but most importantly, they are there to laugh with me! We love to play games, go for walks, play tennis, and just hang out,” she said.
“My family is the most important part of my life. I have four children, Drew, Hailey, Austin, and Megan, and two grandchildren, Ivy, age 5, and Pace, age 3 months. I love spending time with my husband as we watch movies and work in the garden. Growing up, my brother Jim was my best friend. He is the reason I grew to love sports. My big sister Heather has become my hero in education and diversity.
“Above all, I am extremely blessed that my parents are still living. They have always supported me in every aspect of my life, and I owe them everything.”