By Ed Pierce
The best teachers are often described as having very giving and selfless personalities, ensuring student learning is placed above their own needs. Mention that to any student at Jordan-Small Middle School and they’ll tell you you’re talking about Joni Merrill.
|Joni Merrill has taught Physical Education|
at Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond
for the past 21 years and shares with students
the value of physical activity and living
a healthy lifestyle.
Her role involves teaching young people about the value and importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and proper nutrition.
“I do not teach gym,” Merrill said. “I teach young people through the means of physical education.”
Like her teaching counterparts in the classroom, Merrill develops meaningful lesson plans and teaches classes related to exercise and health covering subjects such as first aid and organized sports. Through structured games and lessons, Merrill instructs and encourages her students to be physically active and accomplishes this though teaching young people how to play a wide range of specific sports or to introduce them to various activities such as gymnastics, running and swimming and encouraging them to try out for Jordan-Small Middle School sports teams or to help them find a physical activity or a sport that they are good at or can excel in.
She says the best thing about her work is the opportunity to interact with her students but cites the increasing volume of paperwork required to teach these days, ever-changing state expectations and administrative expectations as the most challenging part of her occupation.
Merrill graduated from Lake Region High School in Naples in 1973 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virgina and obtained a master’s degree in physical education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
Her teaching career has been diverse and memorable. She spent three years as a Kindergarten and First Grade teacher in American Samoa, two years teaching at Lynchburg Christian Academy in Virginia, a year as a preschool teacher in Lynchburg, Virginia and three years teaching at All Saints Episcopalian School in Mississippi.
Returning to New England, Merrill spent two years teaching at Gray New Gloucester High School, two years at Poland Regional High School, and was a part-time teacher as Saint Jospeh’s College in Standish for two years.
“After moving back to Maine from Mississippi, I was a substitute teacher for several school districts,” she said. “I fell in love with Jordan-Small Middle School and set my mind and plans on not only working at JSMS but retiring from JSMS as well.”
Her dream came true when she was hired to teach physical education at Jordan-Small Middle School in 2002 and for more than two decades now, Merrill has been instrumental in developing motor skills for JSMS students as well as social skills and cultivating their interest in being active.
According to Merrill, the public may not be aware of the importance of effective time management to her work.
“The paperwork, assessing, grading and planning, these are aspects of teaching that take a lot of time and effort,” she said. “If I could just have my kids in the gym and do no scoring, we would all be happier. But I also tell the students that life often requires us to do things we don’t want to do.”
To Merrill, she says that her most memorable moment came at Jordan-Small Middle School when students chose her for a special tribute.
“Having the school yearbook dedicated to me by the 8th grade class was special,” she said. “It was an honor.”
Her family takes great pride in her work at the school, and she says that they enjoy her availability during the summer months and school vacations.
Merrill said that the most important thing that she’s learned while working at Jordan-Small Middle School is self-care.
“I choose what my attitude is going to be. I choose to be happy,” she said. “Even through the difficult challenges, something good can come out of it.” <