This article, written by Philip Girvan, will appear in the Winter 2017 issue of The Beacon.
In 2001, Kelly Thompson and his family moved to Antigonish from Saskatchewan when his then spouse was hired at StFX. As luck would have it, the Human Kinetics Department was looking to fill both a lab position and a skills position at that time. Both positions were well-aligned with Kelly’s skill set and he was hired shortly after arriving. Kelly currently works as an Exercise Physiology Lab Instructor and Gymnastic and Fitness Skills Instructor teaching three sections of Gymnastics 105, two sections of Gymnastics 205, and two sections of Fitness 105.
For over 35 years, gymnastics has been a major part of Kelly’s life whether as an athlete, a coach, an official, or an administrator. He has been involved in several major world events including 4 Commonwealth games, 3 Pan-American Games, 6 World Championships, and 3 World University Games. Kelly served as an official during the 2004 Olympic Games. Yet Kelly may be best known, at least in Antigonish, for his role in creating the teaching practicum component of the Gymnastics 205 course.
This provides StFX students with hands-on experience teaching gymnastic skills to children. Kelly describes the practicum as “a skills course but [also]… a community outreach program”. Antigonish had been lacking a community gymnastics program prior to the practicum roll out. Charging a nominal fee (Kelly noted that the fees are approximately a third of those charged for similar programs in larger cities), the program has grown from about 25-30 kids participating to now close to 100. Thompson notes that the program is now “at capacity. We can’t take anymore. Don’t even advertise. We basically fill by word of mouth”.
When asked how the practicum benefited his students, Kelly was quick to suggest that “it teaches them that all children are different: what works for one does not work for another. [Gymnastics students] have to provide an inclusive environment. It teaches them discipline and teaching strategies”.
Kelly is as passionate regarding education as he is about gymnastics. Thirty years after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, Kelly was awarded a Masters of Education from StFX in 2016. The Masters stream was project-based and for his project Kelly developed an educational gymnastics web resource. This web resource, which Kelly maintains and updates regularly, is now part of the Nova Scotia Department of Education’s curriculum documents. It features approximately 160 instructional videos and can be found here: http://people.stfx.ca/kthompso/Home.html
Despite having traveled all over world, Kelly is happy to call Antigonish home. When asked what keeps him in Antigonish, Kelly was quick to say, “Love the community. Love the simplicity of Antigonish. People are outstanding. It’s a special place”.