Social Science Education Doctoral Student and Yogi Wins NETA Award

(Left to right) Tricia Connelly and Kelsey Evans

Traveling to historic destinations during family vacations sparked doctoral student Kelsey Evans’ passion in social science education.

Yoga has been a part of her educational journey throughout college and her teaching career. She incorporated yoga into her workout routine, but became a devoted yogi after receiving treatment for an eating disorder as an undergraduate history student at Florida State University (FSU).

The basis of yoga is having a mind and body connection facilitated through movement and breathing, which helped Evans to let go of baggage and love her body once again.

After receiving her social science education master’s degree from UCF and becoming a certified yoga instructor, she taught U.S. economics, government and history and human geography at Cornerstone Charter Academy in Orlando.

During her third year of teaching, Evans implemented quiet times and mindfulness strategies to decrease her students’ anxiety before they took a U.S. history test. The end-of-course exam had a 70 percent pass rate during the second year and a 98 percent pass rate during the third year, which was the highest test score in the State of Florida.

Evans saw a connection between mindfulness and test taking with her students and decided it was the right time to conduct further research and pursue a social science education Ph.D. degree with a focus in character education and mindfulness.

“Yoga and movement are very important for students, but a lot of focus rests with the brain and mindfulness,” explained Evans. “Yoga speaks to young people in such a way that it allows them to open up and be very authentic.”

She’s thankful for social science education professor William Russell for being her mentor and guide on her road to receiving a doctoral degree.

“Dr. Russell has been encouraging and has allowed me to be creative,” said Evans. “He allows his students to be who they are and pursue their passions. I didn’t experience an educational relationship like this at FSU and that’s why I wanted to return to UCF, so I can continue to foster the relationship. I felt like I was at home.”

Evans met WUCF TV producer and fellow yogi Tricia Connelly while pursuing her 300-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) certification. Evans shared her mindfulness with children interest with Connelly who thought the topic would be ideal for a WUCF TV kids’ program.

Evans and Connelly decided to call the show “Happy, Healthy Kids.” They both co-produce and write the one-minute clips, which engage children with yoga poses, meditation and breathing exercises and topics, including the importance of brushing your teeth, sleep and fun with reading that air every hour in between WUCF TV programs.

The yogi duo’s perseverance paid off. The “Happy, Healthy Kids” segment won the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) award in the Content Creation category in January.

Evans is proud of her “Happy, Healthy Kids” accomplishments, but is thankful that she’s making a difference with children.

“Everything that I believe in as an educator fits under “Happy, Healthy Kids,”” said Evans. “Yoga has been a great foundation for my life. Social science education and yoga both share the same philosophy of serving others. “Happy, Healthy Kids” is a learning opportunity for the child, but it’s also a great facilitator for the parent to open up and have discussions about health and other topics. Everything transpired in such a beautiful way where I have a platform where I can reach many people along with being a calling to continue to serve.”

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