The physical education teacher says her “jam” is making sure that nobody gets left out.
“Whatever the barrier, whatever the obstacle, we make sure that learning's accessible,” she explains.
“There's kind of this long-seated assumption that [either] you're sporty or you're not and … for a lot of kids, it's just not their thing [but] actually it's about making PE accessible for everybody, so that everybody feels empowered and everybody feels successful, because if we want to have active teenagers and active adults we need people to have the skills and confidence from a really young age,” she explains.
To achieve this, while working at Auckland’s Point Chevalier School, Kilpatrick set about revolutionising the PE curriculum, making it more inclusive for all.
“Part of it is just trying to find something that works for everyone,” she says.
“Whether it's a team sport or it's an individual thing, something like orienteering or a team game … just finding something that works for every single child and trying to provide PE lessons that are accessible to everybody.”
Kilpatrick says this has included “bringing in sports that are specifically designed for children with physical disabilities, whether that's visual impairment or ... muscular impairments.”
As well as working with external providers to introduce the activities, she says teaching them across the whole school curriculum has been vital, so that all learners understand how to modify and adapt activities to include their peers with different needs.
“We've been running adapted athletic events for children, so we've linked with nearly 30 mainstream schools who have … learners who need an adaptation, and [brought] them together to compete and have a taste of what a fair and equal competition is,” Kilpatrick says.
“…we [also] do a Paralympics school day every year.
“We raise awareness and money and celebrate the Paralympic movement as well.”
Kilpatrick passionately believes that inclusive sport education needs to involve the whole school, including all teachers and pupils.
To help enable this even when she wasn’t available, she initiated a number of programs to upskill teachers.
Each week at Point Chevalier, Kilpatrick would run optional staff professional development sessions to engage teachers in PE activities and discuss how these can support children’s development.
“…it's not just one person delivering a PE program … everybody's invested and everyone is delivering quality PE across the school, because that's really how we're going to make it in the school community, that everybody is competing on the same train and everybody is feeling upskilled and able to deliver high quality PE,” she explains.
When a colleague wistfully commented that she’d like to download Kilpatrick’s brain, the veteran teacher put together the next best thing – what she calls the Games Index.
“The Games Index is just a resource for teachers to go out to follow up what I'm doing.
“It's kind of unpacking games, giving the teachers the key teaching points they need to think about … so giving teachers tools to assess and to unpack all of that learning with their children, and also how to modify these activities, how to make them easier if a learner is having difficulties, how to make them more difficult and extend the learner if they're needing a bit more [of a] challenge.”
Gifted students are not left behind; children who are learning at a level above their peers are given opportunities to take on new challenges where they can develop their leadership skills while helping to plan activities for peers who need modified activities.
This has the added bonus of getting students to consider the requirements of their fellows, and develop their awareness of inclusive education, which they can take with them when they move on to intermediate.
Kilpatrick says it is easy to maintain her passion for teaching when she gets to witness the “golden moments”.
She recalls a student who traditionally found PE difficult – but who one day suddenly made a catch.
“Everything changed after that catch, like that was the one moment, because a peer in his group who played that game outside of school who has a really good understanding was able to show that leadership and initiative, they helped the kid to be in the right spot to make the catch,” she describes.
“He lit up.
"That's why you do it, all those little moments in a day or when a kid comes back and says, ‘oh I, went home and I'm going to try that sport next time’, or a learner comes back a couple of years later and they're still playing a sport that you introduced them to, or you know they've emailed during the summer holidays to tell you that they've tried something new.
“It's the kids that keep you going and seeing them become passionate about it too, it kind of just feeds you.”
Kilpatrick says she was shocked to learn she had been voted EducationHQ’s Unsung Hero in the Teacher category for 2018.
“…there's so many great teachers that are doing incredible things,” she says excitedly.
“Even to be nominated as well … it’s really humbling.”
Along with a certificate and the kudos of being announced this year's Unsung Heroes - Teacher winner, Kilpatrick also wins a $500 cash prize.