By Ken Gillespie
As a lifelong educator, Ponte Vedra Beach resident Peggy Campbell-Rush has touched the lives of thousands of students and teachers, both in the classroom and as an author of seven books. A key leader at the Bolles School, she serves as Head of Lower School at the PVB campus, a Pre-K through fifth grade school with 200 students coming from across the country and beyond. Her Bolles leadership role is a high point of more than 42 years in the profession. She’s proud to say that her three children have followed her teaching path.
Prior to arriving at Bolles she was a senior administrator in a unique program sponsored by the University of Virginia called “Semester At Sea.” This highly selective, fully accredited experience offers the opportunity for some 700 students, professors, and staff to sail around the world while attending college-level classes on board and hands-on cultural immersion in port. In all, Campbell-Rush travelled to 15 countries and four continents over a four month span. She has lived in, traveled to, and worked in a total of 55 different countries.
Q: How did you come to Florida?
A: My time at sea helped me clarify where I wanted to go professionally over the next few years. Wanting a change from many years living in New Jersey I cast a wide job search net up and down the east coast. Bolles responded and flew me to Jacksonville. Mutual attraction was immediately apparent and I was extended an offer of employment within a week. My Florida-based father was thrilled and my husband was supportive of this big move as well. We moved to Ponte Vedra Beach and my husband and I invited my mother to leave the northeast and join us here. Prior to my parents’ passing I was so fortunate to enjoy their close companionship and unending support.
Q: As a career educator with interest in brain/body research what are some teaching techniques you utilize to get the best out of young students?
A: One learned insight is what is called the “7/70 Rule.” Research shows that when a student remains seated after seven minutes brain sharpness declines as much as 70 percent. So after this interval of sit time our Bolles teachers ask students to stand, take deep breaths, and move around. As physical reinforcement I’ve introduced a number of classroom seating options including rocker chairs and stand up desks.
Q: Any suggestions for parents of young students to support learning at home?
A: A few: Boys especially need to physically be on the move, so sitting while doing homework may not be best. Instead try encouraging them to stand while working, perhaps at the kitchen counter. Also, when talking with your son or daughter, avoid sitting directly across from them; it’s better to sit by their side. Lastly, for parents concerned about too much at home screen time, consider limiting it to one hour. Immediately after that hour, interact with them in some sort of fun physical activity such as throwing a ball or running outside. Having a regular fun routine that follows screen time makes it easier for a child to break away from the device.
Q: Over your career you’ve inspired countless students and teachers. Has there been anyone in your own life who has inspired you?
A: I’ve served under some 35 different administrators/supervisors in the teaching field, and one stands out, a Catholic nun from Ireland. She ran a parochial school in Los Angeles during the time while I was a newbie teacher of third and fourth grade students. She was very thankful for the gifts that each individual teacher brought to the classroom. She would ignore the 5 percent that might be less effective in a teacher and focus on, and compliment them on, the 95 percent that was going right. She was so amazing and encouraging. I’ve tried to model myself after her.
Photo courtesy Peggy Campbell-Rush