Last March I decided that I was going to learn how to juggle clubs. My school closed suddenly, virtual teaching was on the horizon, I was staying home and needed to keep busy. Why not juggle? I was getting pretty good at juggling everything at home. I had an old set of clubs in the basement and while learning to juggle them took me longer than expected, it was an inspiring experience. While I wasn’t aware of it at the time, finding the rhythm and balance in juggling helped me to prepare both mentally and emotionally to juggle the constant changes that I have faced as a teacher this past year. Utilizing a variety of resources and unfamiliar technology while trying to keep students engaged and active has been a challenge.
But just like when learning to juggle, when one club falls, you pick it up and start again. More than anything else I have realized that it is important to be kind to yourself. There are many different ways to be successful and not one way works best for everyone.
I have stretched to meet the needs of my learners and strived to find different ways to connect. While I may still be looking at a sea of foreheads in my virtual classroom, students have been the most excited to see what genre of music I will be playing when they enter the virtual classroom (the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song was a hit!). Starting my lessons with a song has allowed both students and myself to ease into the virtual class. Every day I juggle between finding ways to increase students’ virtual engagement, learning to teach PE virtually, increasing my knowledge around new technology and supporting learners in person. But perhaps the most positive aspect of my teaching practice relies on a simple form of technology. I choose to pick up the phone, call and talk to my students; not their parents or guardians. I found that connecting with the students over the phone is more effective for building relationships and supporting their work in my class. While staying abreast of new and innovative technology to teach is more important than ever, it is also important to rely on what is tried and true. It’s important to find your balance. Happy juggling!
Hamden Public Schools
This year has been filled with unprecedented challenges. But as is often the case, there have been some silver linings amidst the clouds. In person teaching in the hybrid model has allowed us the opportunity for more personal connections with students. As I see far fewer students at one time, I am getting to know them on a deeper, more personal level. The ever-changing weather in CT makes teaching outdoors challenging, which is why I hadn’t done it much prior to this year. But our safety protocols encourage us to teach outdoors as much as possible. So this year I have put in all of the extra effort to be prepared for teaching and learning outdoors, and I am realizing the many mental and physical health benefits of this for my students and myself. It is not only safer in terms of germ transmission, it facilitates mindfulness and a connection with nature. We pause to watch birds fly over. We notice animal tracks on the field. There were dandelions right up until they were covered in snow. Thanks to DonorsChoose, I have been able to take my students sledding - something that was new for many of them - and they are coming to understand that there are different kinds of snow. I love to hear students talk about wanting to go back outside to play when they get home because that is something kids haven’t been doing enough of, especially in the winter.
Working with students remotely, while full of challenges, also has its upsides. I have been delivering lessons asynchronously using Padlet, which allows for important social connections. The best things about teaching remotely are that it can allow for almost limitless student choice and it is conducive to focusing on incorporating daily physical first trimester learning about SMART goals using our mileage club: https://youtu.be/35gaLt-OU1w.
Having students at home, some of them fully remote, has been enormously challenging also, and it has required regular communication with families in order to be successful. Luckily we have the resources in place this year in a way that we haven’t in the past. I use Class Dojo ALL THE TIME now! This has led to much closer connections with families than I’ve ever had previously (and has been great for advocacy of quality PE). I am looking forward to continuing to use Class Dojo even after things return to a new normal. It will be great for facilitating things like family gym night and Take-Your-Grown-Up-To-PE Week. These things will happen again at some point… and I am so ready!!
Middletown Public Schools
It is 9pm at night and I’m still waiting to hear if I will be teaching in-person or remotely tomorrow. Mostly everyone can relate to this, the uncertainty of how you will be teaching each day. Maybe it is in a gym, in a classroom, outside, remotely, with equipment, without equipment, or through a substitute. Now let’s add on the stress of zooming students in, holding them accountable, managing your in person students and teaching a variety of activities in one day so you don’t have students sharing equipment before it can be properly cleaned. Breathe, it is a lot, I know. It took a lesson with my students on breathing techniques for it to occur to me that I needed to breathe and think of a better way to manage all the uncertainties of each day.
My first step was to let go. Let go of the fact that on most days I will not feel like it is my best lesson. That I will not be covering all the material I do in a typical year. Not my fault, yours COVID. My second step was to condense. Stop trying to plan a different lesson for every scenario and make a lesson that can be delivered in a variety of settings. That is when I started developing my lessons through google slides. I could use the slides to guide my in person teaching, to be a better visual for my remote students, to be used if we went full remote with no notice, to be used by a substitute in my absence or asynchronous for my remote learners if I was taking my in person learners outside. When I took my own advice to my students of BREATHE, I was able to find some calm in the chaos. Breathe my PE friends!
New Fairfield Public Schools
Buttonball Lane School students in Glastonbury, Connecticut are very familiar with lemons- to promote literacy last year their One School, One Book was the “The Lemonade War” by Jacqueline Davis. I thought it would be a great carry over for our Health and Physical Education theme this year to be “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Throughout the year, we continue to discover the meaning of this phrase by demonstrating perseverance, optimism and a can-do attitude turning difficult situations into something positive- and that we have!
After a long quarantine, students were just so excited to be back at school with their friends and teachers! Despite Physical Education classes being held outdoors along with social distancing and with limited use of equipment, we have all found so much joy-together! Through creative movement, students have used their minds and bodies to travel far and wide from a Safari in Africa to an adventure in the Amazon Rain Forest. Scavenger Hunts, running up and down hills, chasing flying leaves and dodging raindrops have brought so much laughter. Together we celebrate the importance of a healthy mind and body as we communicate through air hugs, air high fives, spirit fingers and heart hands. We are hoping to celebrate with real lemonade in June!
Glastonbury Public Schools
Building relationships is a strong characteristic of physical education teachers. We engage with students differently than many classroom teachers: we have opportunities to exercise together, play games and talk about very personal topics, such as sexual health, diet preferences, sleeping habits, etc. So, in the course of our work, developing and maintaining relationships with students is one of our defining characteristics as teachers in a school building. Surprisingly, I’m seeing and hearing from teachers in the department who are experiencing even stronger relationships with their students due to this pandemic.
These teachers have shared that sometime this past fall, they had a very frank conversation with their students about the pandemic restrictions, the teacher’s responsibility to follow all protocols and the teacher’s desire to provide meaningful, fun and valuable learning experiences in spite of these restrictions. This open and honest conversation, while engaging in a ‘we’re all in this together’ attitude was what made the difference, according to these teachers. Students responded and instead of a ‘Debbie-Downer’ physical education experience this year, we are seeing a ‘Julie-Joyful’ type of response. Here’s to building relationships-one of the many strengths of physical educators.
Regional School District 10 Public Schools
Cadre members can provide presentations and workshops related to a variety of physical education topics such as best practices in physical education, physical fitness assessment, infusing physically active learning throughout the curriculum, adapted physical education, and curriculum analysis.
Attend one of our workshops, share a workshop with other districts to split the cost or we can come to your district. Choose a module we’ve created or request a specific topic for your district or school for an additional fee.
Group size 1-30: Standard fee for a 2-4 hour module is $450.00
(Additional fees may be applied depending on amount of preparation required or size of group, group size of 30 or larger will require an additional trainer)
Tony Loomis was a secondary physical education teacher in Naugatuck, CT for over 10 years. He is currently the Physical Education and Health Curriculum Coordinator in Wallingford Schools. He is the 2014 SHAPE America National High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year and was recognized in 2005 as CTAHPERD’s Outstanding New Professional. Tony travels around the country to present on topics such as Increasing Motivation and Participation in Physical Education, and Incorporating Technology into Physical Education. He also has experience as a key-note speaker. Along with being a Cadre member, Tony was part of the CT Physical Fitness Assessment Committee, 3rd Generation. He enjoys being a role model for his students through practicing a physically active lifestyle. Tony is the new Facilitator for the CADRE!!
Dr. Jean Mee is the retired CT State Department of Education Consultant for Physical Education and School Health Education, and professor of exercise science. She is a former teacher education program coordinator, district director of health and physical education, and physical educator and health educator PreK-12.
Casey Pilkington Aiezza is an elementary physical education and health education teacher. She currently teaches in New Fairfield. Casey was awarded Meeting House Hill School's 2014 Teacher of the Year and is recognized as Springfield College's Top 40 under 40 graduates. Additional accomplishments include 2010 Exemplary Elementary School Program Award from the Connecticut Association of Schools and receipt of 2011 ING Unsung Heroes Award and grant. Casey has been Responsive Classroom trained and enjoys teaching her students how to build a positive learning community.
Amanda Amtmanis has been an elementary physical education teacher in Middletown, CT since 2000 and is currently the PE teacher for Spencer School and Macdonough School. She is a TEAM mentor and frequently hosts student teachers from CCSU and ECSU. She has experience doing presentations at the local, state, regional and national level on a wide variety of topics in both physical education and as a member of the board of presenters for the CT After School Network. Amanda has previously served CTAHPERD as the Region 1 Director and VP for Physical Education on the Executive Council. Some honors include two CTHAPERD Outstanding Program awards and 2014 Elementary Teacher of the Year. She is passionate about maximizing movement opportunities for all children and helping them to develop a love of movement and fitness for life.
Ellen Benham is a retired Middle School Physical Education and Health Education teacher, specializing in adapted PE and Unified Sports/ She is also a former Administrator of K-12 Health and Physical Education, Intramural Sports, Unified Sports and MS/HS Athletics. Ellen is currently an Adjunct Professor at CCSU in Physical Education and Human Performance Department, a high school soccer official and substitute teacher.
Alexander Camire has taught physical and health education to grades K-12, and is currently the Physical Education Teacher at Ridge Hill Elementary School in Hamden. Alex has welcomed SCSU students into his school to implement the PASS (Physically Active School Systems) program and has also provided numerous mentoring opportunities. He is passionate about finding new and exciting best teaching practices to ensure that all students improve their cognitive, psychomotor, and affective abilities so that all students can lead a healthy life. When Alex is not teaching, he can be seen engaging with the school community throughout the day. He prides himself on making sure that physical education is a safe learning space for everyone.
Jay Cebula is a secondary physical education teacher in Hamden, CT. He has experience teaching PE in grades K-12 in a variety of settings and has taught health education at the middle school level. Jay is a TEAM mentor and enjoys sharing his passion with beginning teachers as well as student teachers. He serves as a member of the school-wide instructional rounds committee and has coordinated multiple athletic fundraiser activities. He also enjoys the challenge of finding new and exciting ways to integrate cross-curricular activities into his units of instruction. Powered by optimism you will always find a smile on Jays face.
Michael Cebula is a secondary physical education teacher in Hamden, CT where he was recognized as the district's Teacher of the Year for the 2011 - 2012 school year. He has presented professional development on integrating technology and aligning activities to the CCSS. He served on the district curriculum committee and is a member of his school-wide data team. Along with his passion for health and fitness, Mike takes an active role in the school community. He serves as the co-facilitator on the School Governance Council and coordinates numerous fundraisers to bring the community together. Mike is a TEAM mentor and is passionate about sharing his expertise with his colleagues, student teachers and college students.
Carol Ciotto has served as a professor at Central Connecticut State University in the Department of Physical and Human performance for the past 8 years. She spent 21 years serving as a physical education teacher in West Hartford, an assistant principal in Hartford and a principal in East Hartford. Carol has served on the CTAHPERD Executive Council as VP for Physical Education and Dance and is the President Elect for 2011-2012. In addition she serves as a member of the strategic planning committee for EDA. She has received numerous awards including the CCSU Excellence in Teaching, EHPS Superintendent’s Service, Connecticut Association of Schools Program, CTAHPERD Elementary Teacher of the Year and Outstanding Program, Hershey’s National Excellence in Teaching and Service, CIAC Outstanding Coach of the Year. Carol has a true passion for teaching and learning and is committed to continuous service to the field.
Phyllis Jones is the K-12 PE/Health Coordinator at Regional School District 10 in Burlington, CT. She also teaches physical education and health at the high school level, serves as the chairperson for the district's Coordinated School Health Team and is the TEAM District Facilitator. She is a former BEST portfolio scorer and currently serves as a Master Mentor, TEAM Coordinating Committee member, PDEC, and Reflection Paper Reviewer.
Michael Pietruszka is an adapted physical education teacher at the River Street Autism Program in Bloomfield, CT. Michael has been teaching special education students for the past 15 years. He has training in Applied Behavior Analysis, Picture Exchange Communication and Assistive Technology, which he incorporates into his curriculum. Michael has presented both nationally and internationally on subjects pertaining to grant writing, inclusion, assistive technology, multimedia projects and adapted physical education.
Janice Skene has been teaching elementary health and physical education in the Glastonbury School System since 1988. She has served on the CTAHPERD Executive Committee as a Vice-President three times and currently serves as Scholarship Chairperson. In 2007, Janice was named the CTAHPERD Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. She coached Glastonbury Special Olympic Teams for over twenty years as well as the Unified Sports Team at Eastbury Elementary School. She loves using interdisciplinary strategies in physical education and her themes for Field Day have included “Games from Medieval Times”, “A Celebration of America”, “A Journey Through Books”, and “Eastbury Saves the Planet: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.
Favorite sites from the CT PE Cadre
Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of emails with distance learning resources? Not sure which ones are worth your time? Here’s a list of some of our favorite sites and resources we are using.
Wallingford K-12 PE/Health Curriculum Coordinator
Dr. Jean Mee
Retired Physical Education & School Health Consultant
CT State Department of Education