POTSDAM -- A Potsdam elementary school physical education teacher has been named the 2014 New York State Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
Danielle Grant, who has taught at Lawrence Avenue Elementary School for 24 years, will receive this year’s award at the 77th annual NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AHPERD) conference Nov. 19-22 in Verona. The award honors excellence in teaching physical education at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Grant includes many atypical activities in her classes such as yoga, the climbing wall and biking to develop well-rounded wellness levels. She often uses technologies with her students and actively seeks out grant funding for many of her programs.
Grant says she aims to provide a variety of activities to allow the students to “sample the menu” of physical opportunities available to them and includes activities indigenous to northern New York. “Our lengthy winter provides opportunity to explore outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, ice skating and sledding. The vast wilderness areas lend themselves to hiking and working with GPS units,” said Grant.
Grant uses pedometers, pulse sticks, GPS units, gaming systems, iPads, PowerPoint, the Sportwall, wireless mics and iPods with her students. “The children of today live in a technologically infused world. Using technology within the physical education environment shows them how they can stay connected and fit at the same time,” said Grant.
“Using the iPad video camera and iCoach app, students are able to view their performance and make improvements towards an established goal,” she said. Students use their personal data from their Fitnessgram Physical Assessment to evaluate their fitness level and develop a plan towards improvement, she added.
“I teach my students not just the ‘how’ to stay fit, but also the ‘why’,” said Grant, who teaches a nutrition curriculum that is reinforced throughout the year. She also organizes a “Health Awareness Month” during which students participate in a variety of activities such as bike and pedestrian traffic safety, dental health, gun safety, dog safety, and domestic violence prevention. Health Awareness offers physical challenges such as a hula hoop contest, scavenger hunts and “guest athletes” speakers.
Throughout the year, she sends home a monthly newsletter to families highlighting the physical education curriculum, sharing wellness tips, and providing information for health and safety.”
She created “Beyond the Gym Doors” which awards prizes to students who increase physical activity and healthy eating habits at home. For example, first grade students receive a monthly challenge sheet including a nutrition challenge such as “eat three whole grain foods" and a physical challenge such as "Do 10 push-ups with a friend.” Her fourth grade students bring home "PE in a bag," a duffle bag filled with equipment that can be used at home such as cup stacks, Frisbees and a stopwatch.
Grant organizes field trips such as hikes in the Adirondack Park, ice skating at a local rink, and tubing and ice skating at Lake Placid.
“I have always felt valued and appreciated by my administration and school board. At a time where PE programs have been cut or had a reduction in contact time, I see my students every other day.”
Grant said she is excited to be given the opportunity to network with others at the state level when she attends several conferences this next year.
AHPERD members are health education, physical education, recreation and dance teachers, youth coaches, and other agency and community health professionals interested in promoting health, physical education, recreation and dance to students of all ages.