If one takes the first right on the way in through the north doors of RBHS, he/she will end up in the science hallway. Two doors in, and the person will find room 346. An easier way of spotting this classroom, however, is to simply look for the wall filled with dozens of note cards describing what students are thankful for.
Amy McKenzie, a kinesiology and biology teacher here at RBHS, is the person behind the eye-catching display. What’s more, this project is just one in a long line of initiatives she’s organized in her 10 years at RBHS.
“The wall of happiness is something I was inspired by Pinterest to try. I thought it would just be a really nice thing to do at Rock Bridge to promote positivity and the skill of reflection. I think that it’s important for all of us, high schoolers and adults alike, to engage in, to consistently reflect on our lives and where we are and what we’re grateful for and what brings us joy,” McKenzie said. “It’s been a fun thing and a nice thing to promote that mental health aspect to our personhood because we’re not just about our physical health; we have to take care of our mental health, too.”
During McKenzie’s kinesiology block, her dedication to health translates to daily conversations about how her fitness-related ventures, such as trying out a gymnastics class and cutting out soda, are progressing. Outside strictly school-time, however, McKenzie has provided even more support for students who come to her with challenges.
Former RBHS student Jesseca Alexander is especially grateful for the help McKenzie was able to offer.
“Mrs. McKenzie has been an important figure in maintaining my mental health. While in her class I developed a relationship with her and was able to open up about my problems to her. During this time I was struggling with time management, depression and toxic friendships, and she was able to help with all of those,” Alexander, who graduated in 2016, said. “She was able to teach me how to portion out my day to best spend my time. She was an encouraging and hopeful person to talk to while I was going on medication for depression, and she was able to give trustworthy advice on how friendships were going.”
On a broader scale, McKenzie has been bringing fitness to RBHS through classroom and schoolwide activities like organizing a couch to 5K, putting together a half-marathon training plan for a group of students and starting up a book club, which she says was beneficial for the participants’ mental health. She also builds opportunities for students to improve their fitness in her curriculum, one being a goal project where many students choose to focus on a specific aspect of their health.
Friend and fellow biology teacher Kerri Graham, who has worked alongside McKenzie for the past decade, most appreciates her ability to examine other people’s perspectives.
“I have the utmost respect for [McKenzie] because she has great passion, great heart, and she is one of the most reflective people that I know. She really thinks about what is important to others,” Graham said. “So whether that be a colleague or her personal students or the school at large, she is always thinking about ‘How can I help bring the best out in others?’ One of the things she believes is that people have a need and a desire to be known and to be loved.”
While the physical and mental aspects of wellness are important to McKenzie, the opportunity to set and achieve goals is one of her greatest sources of motivation. McKenzie has completed several triathlons, a half marathon, two rounds of P90x and competed in diving, to name a few of her endeavors. In fact, right now McKenzie is in the middle of a 30-day at-home yoga trial.
“I like to see if I can rise to the challenge, and that’s motivating for me to have a tangible goal. I find enjoyment out of trying new things and those physical challenges,” McKenzie said. “As I’m getting a little older, physically your body doesn’t operate the same way as it did when you were 16. I think that’s where the fact that I’m open to trying new things is a positive thing.”
Who’s your favorite teacher and why? Comment down below.