Energetic leader reaches out to students and community | Dr. Kristy Taylor
When students walk into one of Dr. Kristy Taylor’s classrooms, they quickly learn to be uninhibited. “I tell my students that what is said in the classroom stays in the classroom,” says Taylor.
According to the Pearl, Miss., native, letting students feel comfortable enough to express their opinions even if they are different from the mainstream is the key to unlocking their creativity.This is just one of many things Taylor believes are needed to have a successful learning experience.
“It’s so important that students understand how each topic is not only relevant to the real world but how it relates to them and their community.”
Taylor has been a health education professor at Palm Beach State since 2010. In 2013, she took on a new challenge of teaching American history and also became co-chair of the Department of Educational Services. The foundation for these roles, however, was laid much earlier, with lessons about leadership and discipline that she learned in the U.S. Air Force.
During her junior year of high school, Taylor saw a need in her community for more teachers. This got her thinking about the job for herself. With an outgoing personality and a desire to help people, she knew it was a match.
To help pay for her education, she joined the Air Force, where she served as a health care manager. At age 21, she taught health care management at the Community College of the Air Force as her first teaching experience.
She credits the Air Force, and several mentors she met along the way there, with helping her learn to teach students from a variety of backgrounds. The military life also developed her organizational and management skills.
Taylor is now using those skills in the classroom, where she teaches many aspects of health education, such as wholistic health, chronic disease prevention, physical fitness and stress management. She also gives cross-curriculum assignments such as researching the history of medicine in America.
Taylor cares about more than just students’ health habits, she also wants them to understand health insurance plans. “Most students don’t know the difference between an HMO and a PPO plan,” says Taylor. “By understanding what is and isn’t covered, they’re not left with potential unexpected bills.”
Taylor’s students also experience life outside the classroom through another one of her passions: service-learning. In fact, Taylor feels so strongly about serving others that she tells her students that if they participate in at least one project, she’ll give them a recommendation.
In 2013, her students got a clearer glimpse into the lives and obstacles of low-income individuals and families through the Cost of Poverty Experience, organized by the Community Action Network of Palm Beach County.
During the project, Taylor says she experienced an “aha” moment when she knew her students were truly changed. “I like to challenge my students’ preconceived notions by providing them with new learning experiences. In this case, they walked in one way and walked out totally different,” says Taylor.
Taylor says she’s not here to indoctrinate her students with her opinions but to encourage them to have their own and make informed decisions about their futures. For more information about Taylor, visit her blog at http://www.drkristytaylor.com.
need to ask…
Q What do you believe you bring to the classroom that makes you unique?
A My energy! I’m excited about what I do and students need to see that or they won’t get excited themselves. My entire background has been focused on health education, but I was just as excited to teach history.
Q What have you learned from your students?
A They have taught me to be open-minded and that they will rise to the occasion if you expect great things from them.
Q What is the biggest health concern facing young adults today?
A A lack of knowledge. When students don’t have a basic understanding of an issue, they won’t even know what questions to ask.
Q Having been a student yourself for so long, how does it feel now to be a teacher?
A It feels good because you know your hard work is paying off. And, being a department chair, I can now help choose instructors and faculty who I know will care about students.