We would like to introduce Sing Song Yoga® Teacher, Mellissa Zoerhof, BSEd, MA, SSYT, K-8 Educator, 200hr TKYM!
Mellissa is one of those people who makes the world a better place simply by being who she is. She works to continually teach on the leading edge, always going that extra mile to most powerfully engage and reach her students. She provides a purposefully positive learning environment within which her students feel supported to take positive risks to move beyond where they’ve been before, physically, emotionally and socially.
Mellissa is an educator, an innovator and a leader, who has an uncanny ability to connect with kids and adults alike. If you ever get the chance to connect with Mellissa in any capacity, I highly recommend you do so! You can learn more about her current programming or connect with her here.
We asked Mellissa a few questions about becoming a SSYT and below are her heart-felt answers!
Why did you want to be a Sing Song Yoga® Teacher?
From the first time I learned about this program, I was in love. The movement, learning, singing, collaboration between participants and the heart of yoga all wrapped into one. Having the ability to inspire confidence, strength, balance, flexibility for kids both on and off of the mat was so moving.
What do you look forward to doing with your teaching?
I look forward to bringing yoga to kids who have been looking for something that they can connect with, something that builds their spirits, grows their confidence and also their perspective. I adore watching people step out of their comfort zones, try something new and show themselves how brave and strong they are! I look forward to bringing Sing Song Yoga to community groups in my area as well. And as a Spanish speaker, the ability to partner with groups en Espanol is something I so look forward to!
What other degrees or certifications do you hold?
I have a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Elementary Education. I am also 200 hr Yoga Certified in addition to being certified as a Sing Song Yoga® Teacher.
What other classes do you offer in the community?
My goal is to inspire confidence, growth mindset and courage in every class I teach. From motor Movement with little ones, to bilingual Move! Play! Learn! (a literacy-based movement class), and Teen Yoga – which focuses on leadership and confidence building… each class is aimed to help others feel positively impacted so that they then go and positively impact elsewhere.
Tell us about your family, hobbies, loves, passion, etc.
I have two wonderfully energetic kids, Macie and Reid, who have grown up on Sing Song Yoga. They are my favorite teacher’s assistants. My hubby Chris is a builder who has been on this yoga journey with me from day one and is my biggest cheerleader.
I love whole-health… continuous work on maintaining and sustaining a healthy mind, body and soul. Exercise, journal writing, reading and constant learning are things that fill me with peace, joy and wonder!
Thank you Mellissa for joining us in making the world a better place one young yogi at a time!
For some, yoga is experienced as just another “workout.” The effects are often overlooked as we simply show up on the mat, do our thing, and move on with our day.
The impact yoga has on each person is certainly multifaceted and individual. But through deliberate reflection, even young yogis can notice changes within themselves as a result of doing middle school yoga.
As part of our yoga class, our middle schoolers write down their state of mind when they arrive to class, after our opening relaxation, and at the end of class after Savasana. They gather these daily reflections in a folder for further contemplation in the last week of their 8-week session.
As they walk into class they grab their mat and blocks, as well as a blank sticky note and pencil. They quickly jot down the date and a word that describes their current state of mind or emotions. They set the note and pencil aside while we do an opening relaxation and they then record their state of mind again — often times feeling a change after only 90 seconds of stillness.
We enjoy a full yoga class. And then after Savasana they record their third word and put their sticky note into their folder, which is a large piece of construction paper folded in half.
Their folders remain with me in between classes and the young yogis see them at the end of each class as they add their latest sticky note to it. Keeping the folders with me is not only less distracting for them during class, but it keeps our young yogis from looking back to their feelings from the previous weeks. This allows them to remain more focused on their current emotions and experiences, rather than being taken back to past feelings.
At the end of the eight weeks our yogis will use their sticky note reflections to inspire a written or illustrated culminating expression of their experiences as yogis. I look forward to witnessing this full-circle process for them!
This has been such a gift to me as their teacher to be able to see vivid results from their experiences of yoga – through this super simple tool and process.
If you’ve ever considered incorporating yoga into your childcare programming, we have just the training for you. Sing Song Yoga® is an award-winning international kids’ musical yoga program in which song lyrics instruct children how to get into the poses. Our offerings include an iOS app, a DVD, a School Program (Book/DVD), a full Sing Song Yoga® Teacher Training and various professional development trainings.
This Sing Song Yoga® in Daycare Workshop is designed to provide participants with ideas and new understandings to use the program tools to incorporate Sing Song Yoga® into the childcare setting for children ages 2-11.
learn how to most efficiently use the Sing Song Yoga® App and the Sing Song Yoga® DVD within the childcare setting*
learn basic sequencing guidelines of poses
learn basic brain and body systems
learn some benefits of yoga
experience the 49 original SSY poses
experience some yoga-based activities
learn some ideas for incorporating yoga as part of the natural childcare environment
experience and leave with the manual, “Using Sing Song Yoga® in the Childcare Setting: a supplemental resource guide to support childcare providers using Sing Song Yoga®
Deb Weiss-Gelmi, Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, found her roots in teaching children through songs as an elementary school teacher. Her major in child development, her Masters in Literacy K-12, and teaching Sing Song Yoga® in a variety of settings for 9 years has further deepened her understanding of developmentally appropriate practices for children and fuels her passion for relating with children in powerfully unique ways. The learning environment Deb provides encourages children to explore their surroundings and themselves more deeply. Trainees are welcomed into her unique world of children allowing them to experience kids in this way. Deb has 16 years combined experience practicing and teaching yoga to adults and children and is thrilled to pass on her rich knowledge and passion for children and yoga.
* The Sing Song Yoga® iOS App is only available for Apple Products (iPhone, iPod, iPad). Most of the training will also be applicable for those childcare providers using the DVD to teach SSY, but a portion of the training will be demonstrating the app. Furthermore, it is assumed that the facility, in which the participants of the SSY PD intend to use our program with children, will have a means for projecting the content of the App or DVD onto either a large TV or a screen for children to experience the program learned through this SSY PD.
Sing Song Yoga® is grateful to partner with Kids’ Food Basket for our 2017/2018 Charity of the Year. They have been empowering communities to alleviate childhood hunger in southwest Michigan for nearly two decades. Their magic stems from their nearly 250 volunteers who prepare, pack and deliver Sack Suppers to nearly 7500 children in 42 schools EACH week! And to top it off, 33% of their volunteers are kids!
In 2010, Kids’ Food Basket founder Mary K. Hoodhood was recognized by President Obama by awarding her the Presidential Citizens Medal for her advocacy and service.
From Kids’ Food Basket: One in five Michigan children experiences hunger, and we are working to change that. Hunger robs kids of their energy, health and dignity. Lack of consistent, nutritious food limits cognitive development and leave kids unable to concentrate in school. When kids get the nourishment they need, they are able to come to school ready to learn. Kids’ Food Basket mission is simple; empowering communities to attack childhood hunger so that young people can learn and live well.
Through our Sack Supper program, kids get well-balanced, nutritious evening meals, filling a gap that schools and parents often can’t afford. Kids’ Food Basket serves children who attend schools where 70% or more of the student population receive free or reduced-cost lunch.
Every Sack Supper contains one serving of fruit, one serving of vegetables, one serving of protein and a healthy snack. Each Sack Supper is a ready to eat, evening meal, that help children grow in mind and body while teaching healthy habits. We know when kids get the nourishment they need, they are more likely to miss less school, perform academically, graduate on time, and go on to be able to provide for their own families. We are playing a critical role in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Kids’ Food Basket is the largest organization in West Michigan focused solely on childhood hunger. We strive to put an end to childhood hunger using an approach that:
Serves kids directly. Every week day, nearly 7,500 children at 42 schools in Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa Counties receive Sack Suppers, funded by their respective communities.
Creates an engine for volunteering. Each week day, nearly 250 volunteers prepare, pack and deliver these Sack Suppers.
Empowers kids to help each other. Through volunteering and educational programs, we help kids understand the challenges of hunger, and give them the opportunity to lead projects that benefit fellow kids. Around 33% of hours volunteered at Kids’ Food Basket come from youth under the age of 18.
Each Sack Supper is powered by the love and support of our community. By partnering with individuals, families, businesses, food resources, other nonprofits, schools and teachers, Kids’ Food Basket helps ensure that lunch is not the last meal of the day for over 7,500 kids in West Michigan.
There are over 9,500 children in Ottawa County alone (home of Sing Song Yoga) who are considered food insecure and may not know when or where their next meal will come. Kids’ Food Basket introduced the Sack Suppers program at Woodside Elementary in Holland in the Spring of 2015. By Spring of 2016, teachers are already reporting “monumental” changes in the behavior of their students. She attributes improved attendance to kids knowing they’ll get that Sack Supper. “They are able to get their work done during class, and they bring their homework back. That’s huge,” she explained.
As of today we are serving over 500 students each week day in Holland at three elementary schools; Woodside Elementary, Holland Heights K-7 and Jefferson K-7. Visit our website www.kidsfoodbasket.org to learn how you can join the attack on childhood hunger!
It’s midnight. Lying in bed. Lights are out. I can’t sleep. My brain is revving, can’t stop thinking — how could I start teaching yoga to kids? I’m a kindergarten teacher. I’m a yogi. I can teach yoga to kids. I want my 3-year-old to learn about yoga while she’s small… etc., etc., etc. Suddenly, I think – SONGS! I start humming a tune. I turn on the lamp, hoping not to wake my husband, sit up — more like jump up! Grab my note book and start writing… until dawn.
These became the first versions of the first songs that would eventually become a series of songs in which the lyrics instruct children how to get into the yoga poses, now known as award-winning, international Sing Song Yoga® for kids.
Fast forward 8 years. I’m sitting at my computer staring at a blank page pondering what would be the most important information to teach at a Sing Song Yoga teacher training? What do I have in my brain that I now use intuitively to teach this program? How do I package it for teacher trainees in a way that would allow others to provide a similar experience for kids throughout the world? What are the key components of Sing Song Yoga that can be replicated across the globe to provide families with the magical environment that makes this program a powerful experience for kids and families?
My teaching is a culmination of years of experience teaching young children and
providing a welcoming environment for families. I’ve studied child development, education, brain research, yoga, parenting styles, and family structures. I have a unique natural connection with children, being able to see through their eyes, to feel their little hearts, to intuitively know what allows them to open up and what makes them retract. How in the world can I pull all of this together to assist another teacher to most fully understand children through my eyes and through my heart. Can I really do that? Can I teach another person my perspective that makes Sing Song Yoga what it is?
The songs, the poses, and the activities are lovely, fun and unique in and of themselves and some can even be found in our DVD and app, but they are only a part of what makes the live Sing Song Yoga class what it is. It’s the learning environment created by the teacher within which those pieces perfectly fit.
For the most part, our society tends to teach children in a controlling structure. In a “well-behaved vs. naughty” paradigm, in which adults see it as their responsibility to control children (and their parents) to behave in THE way that is most fitting and most proper to succeed in our society. The overarching premise that you need to learn to “behave this way” and know “these things” and you will do well. Sameness. Conformity.
To the contrary, Sing Song Yoga seeks to provide experiences to empower children and families to reach for who they are and shine in their own unique ways. To explore and feel a freedom in our environment. One in which parents are freed from the underlying feeling of needing to demonstrate that they are good parents by the way their child “behaves,” or by the skill-level their child achieves. An environment in which children feel a sense of freedom and excitement of new challenge and calm, without feeling the pressure to measure up to some prescribed expectation of behavior and result.
How, in the world can I teach someone to understand my perceptions of a truly child-centered, explorative, open environment? To feel this at their core. To shift paradigms. To then take this shift and re-create it within their own learning environment, laced with the essence of Sing Song Yoga — Empowerment; “I am strong, smart, creative and worthy. I have a unique voice and I have the power to make the world a better place!”
For the last year and a half, I have dedicated 90% of my work time to pulling together, adapting and tweaking my information to best vividly draw a picture for teacher trainees to experience my world, my vision, my weekly environment I provide for children. For these trainees I attempt with all that I am to open my heart to give a glimpse of my deep understanding and passion for what helps empower children within our Sing Song Yoga environment for the brief amount of time we have them in our class. I’m not seeking to change the whole world. But it is my desire, within the context of my teacher training, to allow trainees who are well suited for this program, to fully absorb my heart which holds the space for this open learning environment.
I was asked if I have policies in place for parents during the live classes because of the infamous “helicopter parents.” I so appreciate this question because it led me to explain my feelings on parents’ freedom with an open door policy. From the very first Sing Song Yoga class, as an extension of who I am, I removed the physical foldable wall dividers to be sure that parents felt welcome in our class – either as an observer or as a participant. Making policies that would limit the experiences of all families, because of a few parents, would go against the open environment I seek to provide. Most every parent has their child’s best interest at heart. Truly. And some might actually stretch their thinking from the interactions they observe and/or experience in our class – maybe not all, but some. For most families, parents being present in a class enriches the experience, if only providing a platform for later parent/child discussions. In addition, if parents have the opportunity to observe a child-led environment, they might be more likely not only to listen to their child a little more closely that day, but also, just maybe, hold a newer standard for the environment within the other programs for which they sign their kids up.
The much anticipated weekend arrives. I’m sitting in the beautiful Yoga Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan gazing appreciatively at the yoga props each immaculately organized in its proper place, and the materials I have just hung up on the walls. The very first trainees will arrive in a few moments to begin the process of learning to be a Sing Song Yoga teacher.
They arrive. We explore, dig deep, share, create, explore, dig deep, share, create…
The final minutes of our very first Sing Song Yoga Teacher Training are upon us. It’s the end of the last of 3 days of intense study, laughter, creation and idea sharing. The creative, smart, empowering women who took the plunge with me were giving me the feedback that provided me with a big fat “yes!” to my questions. Yes, I can invite others into my world of children and families. Yes, others will begin to see my vision, my standard of truly child-centered learning environments. Not just the fancy buzz words — but the real thing — felt fully by the teacher, exuded through their hearts and into the hearts of the families who join their class. And finally, yes, other teacher trainees will find value in the full program – not just learning the songs and the poses, but the true essence of Sing Song Yoga.
My heart overflows with appreciation for these two women, each with their own unique powerful strengths, giving me the necessary feedback, for my ability to share my heart and vision, and for feeling a big “Yes” for moving forward with the highest of expectations for future teachers in this program across the nation and around the globe.
If you happen to share this vision of a child-centered, explorative, open learning environment, and have an interest in taking the Sing Song Yoga Teacher Training this November in Grand Rapids, Michigan, check out our Teacher Training page. It’s not an easy training. Work is involved — but meaningful work that will give you the tools to provide a rich, child-centered environment, in which yoga, songs and laughter naturally fit.