Survival Kit: Ms. Ackerman on the Whistle She Doesn’t Use

MSMHS P.E. teacher Ms. Ackerman talked with Current reporter Scarlet Colbath about the seven things she can't live without.

Survival Kit: Ms. Ackerman on the Whistle She Doesn’t Use
Illustration and photography by Kaiden Chandler.

Welcome to Survival Kit, a monthly column interviewing teachers on the seven things they can't live without. In this edition, MSMHS P.E. teacher Ms. Ackerman talked with Current reporter Scarlet Colbath about coffee, sneakers, and the whistle she always carries but never uses. Here's their conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

1. Her Treadmill — And Sanity Space

I’m going to say number one would be my treadmill, which I’m sure surprises absolutely nobody, but maybe not for the reasons that you think. So, my treadmill is my sanity space. I have a little room in my house that’s pretty much the size of a closet that my treadmill sits in and I have a window. And I call it my running room; my kids call it my running room. I shut the door and the kids know that when I’m in there, they can’t bug me unless it’s an emergency. So that’s sort of where I can just kind of let my mind regain its sanity and be clear. 

I do multiple things while I’m on the treadmill, which sounds crazy — sometimes I’m reading while I’m running. Sometimes I’m listening to music, sometimes I’m listening to podcasts, sometimes I’m watching a movie. I can’t live without that because it keeps me balanced and together. 

2. Morning Coffee

I carry my coffee everywhere; I need a cup of coffee every morning. That is since teaching though, I went through all of college without coffee. So, buckle in kids — adulting equals coffee [Laughing]. That’s what kind of gets me through, and I don’t know. It’s just a positive part of the morning. I like it with hazelnut creamer. I do like to try other flavors, like seasonal pumpkin spice.

3. Audiobooks

Third would be my audiobooks. I like to read one book and I like to listen to another because it kind of keeps it separate in my head. I’ll be reading at one point in the day and then — usually when I’m driving to and from work or running — I’m listening to my audiobooks. I like to listen to every kind of book sometimes — self-help books or fiction sometimes. Sometimes it’s a true story, a biography, or a memoir; I think those are cool. I’m currently reading Viola Davis’ memoir; she’s an actress.

4. Home

My next thing is my house, which sounds really silly and obvious. I love my home because it feels like a home, it doesn’t feel like a house. I love the people in it, I love the way it feels when I pull up in it. When I walk in, it feels like home. It just feels good to be there with a fireplace and it’s comfortable, and it feels homey. I don’t know how else to describe it.

5. It’s a Wonderful Life

My favorite movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life. It's in black and white; it is old. But whenever I’m feeling down and out, and I feel like I just can’t do it anymore, I turn on It’s a Wonderful Life. It gives me hope and makes me feel like everything happens for a reason. I think at the heart of that movie, it’s really when you surround yourself with the right kind of people, you know that you can really get through anything, which is to me the whole message, and it’s really nice.

6. Sneakers

I think another one would be my sneakers. I don’t know how many pairs, but I like to match them with my outfits, because style points count. (Laughing) Yeah, I like different kinds of sneakers, Brooks are my favorite. 

7. Her Whistle

Last would be the whistle that is on my keys, and not because it has a meaning that ties in with P.E. — I actually don’t use it. I had graduated high school, and I was at college at Quinnipiac, feeling a little bit lost, and not really sure what I should do with my life. So, I stopped in to visit my high school P.E. teacher during the school day, and I told her just that: “I’m feeling a little lost, I don’t really know what I’m working towards right now.” 

She said, “You should be a P.E. teacher. You were born to be a P.E. teacher, you connect with people really well — I think you need to reevaluate and start pursuing things that align with things you're good at and the kind of person you are.” So she gave me this whistle, and she said, “Whether you choose to or not, this is a reminder of what you’re working towards.” She was a phenomenal teacher, she changed the full trajectory of my life and my career, I’m still friends with her to this day. Her two sons were the ring bearers at my wedding, she’s a great person.

The whistle has been on my keys for 15 years. It's a reminder for me when things get hard, to know what I’m working towards. I hope that I can live up to the kind of teacher she was for me, and be that for other people. That’s the goal because when I graduated college, I realized that this is what I should be doing and I really liked it. I said to her, I said “I just don’t know how I can possibly repay you” and she said “just pass it on,” so that’s what I’ve always worked towards.

Thanks for reading Survival Kit, a publication of The Current. Join us next Thursday for news, opinion, puzzles and more in The Current: Monthly Edition!

-Scarlet Colbath, Staff Reporter for The Current

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