In January, Head of School David Mahler recognized two members of the ODA faculty and staff for their service and commitment to Out-of-Door. This week features our second honoree, Mrs. Renee Pitts, marking her amazing 30 years of service!
Throughout her three-decade career at ODA, Mrs. Renee Pitts has witnessed major changes at the School. She has watched the ongoing metamorphosis of the Lower School campus, construction of the new Middle and Upper Schools on the Uihlein Campus, and experienced the tremendous growth of the student body first-hand. Throughout these transformations, she maintained her inventive and imaginative teaching style.
When she arrived at Out-of-Door, Mrs. Pitts taught the Pre-K students from a small, white building on campus with a giant elephant tree planted out front. Working with the youngsters allowed vast opportunity to incorporate movement, singing, and hands-on activities into her classroom. She and her assistant, Mrs. Grace Duffy, worked together to design a stimulating new Pre-K curriculum that would engage ODA’s youngest students.
“We created many fun and magical ‘letter of the week’ activities,” says Mrs. Pitts. “We made applesauce and visited the airport for letter A. [For] B we had our Teddy Bear picnic and a trip to Barnett Bank–where one of the children hit the silent alarm button. We never did forget that field trip!–We danced, sang, acted, and traveled for each letter.”
The creativity of Mrs. Pitts’ lessons flowed into school events. Each year she collaborated with the Lower School teachers to put on the annual Sleepytime/Storytime performances and the 5-A-Day Play.
When Mrs. Pitts began to teach third grade, she found a new audience of students and a new group of teachers to share her ideas with. She helped structure the third grade curriculum, incorporating innovative and fun learning experiences for students, including an immersive, hands-on unit about the United States.
“[One of] my stand-out moments is building the social studies curriculum into a fun way to learn the states,” she says. “[students enjoyed] hiking the Appalachian Trail, Indy 500 races, and the Kentucky Derby...Husking corn when in Nebraska, learning to line dance in Texas, making pancakes in Vermont and enjoying their maple syrup, and building Mount Rushmore out of clay”.
In addition to her creative lesson plans, Mrs. Pitts also established service projects and took part in many school events that have since become ODA traditions.
“I'm proud of starting the daily third grade flag duty, [and creating] connections with Gocio Elementary through our pen pal program. That connection grew into the Thanksgiving Baskets and other ways to give back to the community,” she says. “I also remember our amazing holiday performances at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and when faculty also did the obstacle course for Spirit Day! I'll also never forget all the Extravaganza nights when I walked around with the adorable puppy going up for auction.”
“Renee's energy, spirit, hard work and dedication to all things Out-of-Door make her an outstanding member of Team ODA,” says Mr. David Mahler. “She will always go the extra mile for every student she works with and she has a huge heart for others.”
As a parent of Out-of-Door alumni, she says her children benefited from their ODA education.
“My four children all loved going to school here and are all successful adults. I believe their time at ODA helped make all that possible,” she says.