How this MLK Middle School teacher integrates sports into education

MLK school front

As a first year teacher  at Martin Luther King Middle School in Beaumont, Texas, Ariana Darjean feels a special connection to her physical education students, thanks in part to having siblings that are as old as they are.

“You need to adjust and adapt and yes, I can relate to the kids a little more since I was in school not too long ago,” said Darjean, who also coaches the soccer team at the school. “I’m dealing with them now and I do think it’s a lot easier for me. I try to understand the way they think, the way they see things. Now, in this generation, nothing is a secret anymore.”

The openness of the students and her youth has made it easier for her to communicate with them, listen to their issues, insecurities, and problems. Even though she left middle school a little while ago, she believes that students today are not the same as they were 10 years ago.

“You do have to deal with students a certain way now, you must talk to them a certain way and they do need to be taught a certain way now. Older teachers and more experienced teachers sometimes can be stuck in their generation, like “this is the way it has to be,” but things are constantly evolving, this school is evolving too. You need to adjust and adapt” adds Darjean.

An athlete in college, where she ran cross country, Darjean explains her love for teaching came from a middle school teacher in Austin, who showed her the path through success during a time in her life where she didn’t know what the future held.

“My teacher inspired me to be a teacher. If it wasn’t for my teacher I wouldn’t have gone to college, I wouldn’t have been into sports,” recalls Darjean. “I was just in a place that I didn’t know what to do with my life, but my teacher stepped in and basically told me that I’m better than how I was viewing myself. 

“I’m capable of doing more and kind of inspired me and pushed me and I look back I went to college and I said I want to be a teacher, because that’s my love. I’m a prime example, I didn’t think I was going to be anything in life, yet I’m here being a teacher inspiring other students.”

Darjean channels her stress through athletics, and that’s the reason she majored in physical education in college. She believes that through sports, students will become better in the classroom and make them feel part of their communities.

“Playing sports automatically makes them better in the classroom, because if they are not performing in the classroom, they are not performing in the sport. It goes hand in hand,” explains Darjean. “Even though education is the most important thing, you can kind of hit it from the sport, dive it in. In my PE classes if a student is struggling, I’m automatically implementing interventions”

In her first year at King Middle School, Darjean has embraced Green Dot’s mission and is proud of the difference that it has made in their partnership with the Beaumont Independent School District. All of the teachers she has met share that same goal and it has become an integral part of education at the school.

“I know that Green Dot’s mission is preparing students for college, leadership and life and I do think that is possible here because we give them incentives for their behavior, . It encourages them to do better,” adds Darjean.

Recently, she had her birthday and literally every student at school sang her Happy Birthday, something that she will not forget, as it shows how much the students care for her.

“On a typical day, I start off in the morning, we greet students and some students may be mad in the morning and a simple hello, how are you or hey I like your shoes or a fist pump and I’m ready to see you in class today. All that, those little things can do a lot for our students,” adds Darjean. “My favorite thing is literally seeing a difference, having those side conversations with students, having them confide things to me.