South Riding, VA (Dec. 14, 2015) – Kathy Koscinski, Health and Physical Education Department chair at Freedom High School, has been named the 2015-2016 Driver Education Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Association for Driver Education and Transportation Safety (VADETS).
This marks the second state-level award for Koscinski this year. In July, she received the Governor’s Youth Traffic Safety Award.
Koscinski received the award at the VADETS annual conference October 9-10 in Sandston. Koscinski was on the program as a presenter when LCPS Health and PE Coordinator Sheila Jones and Vanessa Wigand, the Health, Physical Education and Driver Education Specialist with the Virginia Department of Education, insisted that she attend a luncheon. Koscinski said she would have preferred to be preparing for her four afternoon sessions, when Jones went to the podium and began speaking about her. Koscinski said she was “totally shocked” and started feeling the pressure of performing well at those afternoon sessions. She said she just kept thinking, “This had better be good now.”
Koscinski, who is in her 20th year of teaching and 10th with the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS), says that it is powerful to know that “one thing you say to a student in driver education may make a difference between that student being alive or not when faced with a difficult decision behind the wheel.”
Koscinski, who had been a health and physical education teacher in New York before moving to Virginia, said she was surprised to learn that driver education was included in the course curriculum here. “When I first started, it was kind of a shock. In New York, you just teach health and PE. They gave me slides, transparencies and a book. For two weeks, I used these materials at Park View, and the kids were just bored. I knew then that this is not how you do it.”
That early student boredom led her to experiment with different ways to teach the content. She began reorganizing material and breaking it into smaller parts. Her experimentation caught the attention of others, and she has been active both with VADETS and the driver education staff at VDOE ever since. She was excited to note that she took part in curriculum work at the state level and that a brand-new curriculum will be released shortly. The new curriculum includes PowerPoint presentations, student and teacher workbooks, assessments and even project-based activities.
In addition to teaching at Freedom, Koscinski is an assistant adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), where she teaches courses required for those seeking the driver education teacher endorsement. She says the most rewarding aspect of this position is receiving an e-mail from a teacher who says, “I tried this with my kids and it worked.”
Perhaps it is the intersection of both jobs that provides Koscinski with such powerful insight. She enjoys connecting content writers to teachers and giving tools to teachers to use in their classroom that she has used in her own classroom.
Koscinski just returned from taking her students on a field trip to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She said she received an invitation to visit this group through her work on the state level. Her students learned about fatigue, black boxes and accident reconstruction.