After launching her teaching career at international schools in Asia, New Jersey native Carly Bargiel found her dream job at Punahou. Now in her fourth year at the School and 14th year in teaching, Bargiel combines her passion for self-growth and movement with a dedication to creating a fun and safe learning environment for her kindergarten and first grade PE students. One of her key goals: helping students try new skills – and not be afraid to fail.
Can you share some differences between teaching PE in Asia and at Punahou?
I taught in Korea for three years and Taiwan for seven, so my first experience was teaching overseas. English was a second language for students, and unfortunately, a lot is lost in translation with the language barrier. Coming to Punahou, I was like, wow, the students can understand me! So, it’s been a fun learning curve for me to be able to introduce more advanced activities and games.
What’s your teaching philosophy when it comes to PE?
Early on, I realized the importance of SEEL (Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning) in a dynamic setting like PE, with balls going by and kids bumping into each other. You need students to feel safe, seen and heard. If they can be in a space where they feel safe, they’re more willing and excited to learn new things. The opportunities are endless for them to try new skills, embrace failure and work with other students. Once you create that, the physical movement is an exciting byproduct.
How do you promote a safe learning environment?
I encourage students to hit the “pause button,” where kids must ask before taking an action, like touching an object or a person. I also facilitate dialogue around accidents, reinforcing the importance of feeling seen and heard. I tell students, ‘your voice and your choice are your superpowers,’ and we have to learn how to use those, not only in PE but in life in general. For example, you choose who you sit next to, how you respond to a situation. And your voice comes with that. You have a voice to say, ‘you bumped into me, could you say you’re sorry?’
Why do you like teaching Punahou’s youngest learners?
When I first started teaching, I wanted to teach high school. My first job was at a pre-K to grade 5 school, which I took to get my foot in the door, but I then I fell in love with the age – they have so much enthusiasm. They love PE and they’re excited to be there, learn and be involved. They love our ‘holoholo’ sessions, where we walk across campus and discover difference spaces. It’s fun to teach them that anything can become a game or a fun activity, like using a curb as a balance beam.
What circumstances brought you to Punahou?
I grew up in New Jersey and found out about international teaching in college. I didn’t want to stay in New Jersey, so I applied to 40 different schools across the world, eventually landing a job offer in Korea. I had no idea where Korea even was, but the opportunity led to 10 years of teaching aboard, including at the Taipei American School.
Meanwhile, my identical twin sister moved to O‘ahu, and I visited her often. Over the years, I met Peter Balding ’77, a former longtime K – 1 PE teacher at Punahou, through paddling and developed a professional relationship. Punahou then became my goal. I had it on my vision board for 5 years! When Peter retired, I took one of the last flights out of Taiwan, just as the pandemic was starting. Since then, it’s been a smooth transition made easier with no language barrier.
Now, I’m in my fourth year at Punahou and 14th year teaching overall. I still can’t believe I made it here when I did, and all the pieces fell into place. It’s still a ‘pinch me moment’ when I’m here, like, this is my campus, I get to teach outside, the kids are amazing. I feel like I’m in a dream world.
– By Rachel Breitweser ’03
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