Member Voices

Enhancing Student Health and Wellness in ACPS, ESSA-Style

Mike Humphreys, Instructional Specialist for Health/Physical Education and Family Life Education, Alexandria City Public Schools

Under the recently reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is much greater flexibility offered to school districts as to how they spend their Title IV, Part A dollars. For the first time schools and districts are able to allocate funding to enhance the “health and well-being” of the students they serve. This directly aligns with ESSA’s claim to be more supportive of the “whole child,” instead of simply pushing increased test scores. Some school districts have been able to claim these funds in the name of health/physical education initiatives, and I’m very proud to say that Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia is one of them.

What this took on my end was developing positive relationships with my colleagues at the Central Office and constantly pestering the financial gatekeepers so they would know I was in search of extra funding. I would routinely check-in with our Grants Coordinator, for instance, to see if he knew of any emerging opportunities which might allow for dollars in my direction. Once he had input into the Title IV grant and its destination, he was happy to contact me and shut me up for a while!

We are planning a three-pronged attack for spending this money and impacting students’ general health-related understanding. First, I’m able to purchase heart rate monitors and the latest software in the field to give students at four Title I schools extra motivation to get and stay active. Teachers will be able to project real-time readings for heart rate and other measurements pertaining to student activity levels. I’m also able to train the teachers on how to use this cutting –edge equipment. Second, we’re going to have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers at these schools trained in the “Catch a Rainbow Everyday” nutritional program. This will allow them to reach their students with weekly content regarding the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption, among other nutritional messaging. Funding will help to supply a colorful variety of vegetables for the students to sample while they learn how fruits and vegetables help them grow into healthy adults who enjoy a balanced diet. And finally, our division’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program will be used to support these nutrition and fitness efforts to encourage healthy habits. Students will receive incentives for participation in lessons, activities and challenges that promote healthy eating habits and encourage movement.

As student health and wellness are finally finding the spotlight in the K-12 school setting, ESSA’s spending flexibility is serving up just what the country needs. Our students must be taught how important it is that they are physically active and committed to their own well-being. We in ACPS are confident that these initiatives will combine to move the needle related to the growth of our students’ health and physical literacy. We consider ourselves lucky to have been able to secure these funds, and we have already begun the planning to utilize next year’s increased allocation!

Empowering Students Through Appropriate Practices in P.E.

Recently the State Department of Education in Alabama issued guidance that advised teachers to use standards-based physical education instruction in the largest classroom in the school — the gymnasium.

Unfortunately, this guidance was not popular among all the residents of Alabama. The criticism came from all angles and was directed at the State Department of Education, the folks who work for children each day.

Detractors slammed the department for depriving children of having fun because to those critics, “What could possibly be wrong with teaching “Duck, Duck, Goose” and dodgeball to seven- and eight-year-old students enrolled in Alabama Public Schools?”

I take exception with critics who say that students are being deprived of fun. An activity is fun when it is enjoyable for everyone and these games (including getting blasted with a dodgeball) are not. While it is true that some children may enjoy these activities, it is also true that it can be humiliating for many students. For the less athletic and skilled, these games may result in feelings of isolation. Additionally, they often result in early elimination, which limits physical activity during the PE class period.

Bottom line, there are better ways for children to spend time in physical education. What if these children were offered appropriate instructional practices in physical education instead of these elimination activities? The kind of instruction that could help them learn life skills and concepts?

It would mean that time previously spent running relays or playing “What Time Is It Mr. Wolf” could be replaced with activities that help students value their participation in physical activity and develop skill patterns that lead to success in a variety of pursuits. These children could be empowered with the skills and knowledge to analyze, identify and improve their own fitness level.

More importantly, these students could use those same skills — the ones taught through standards-based physical education — to improve relationships, work cooperatively with teammates, and accept and give criticism. They might even learn to enjoy physical activity for their lifetime.

As a parent, I can appreciate the nostalgia of youthful games, but as an educator I know better. Physical education, as well as a host of other subjects, has evolved over the years.

For example, our kids are better off knowing that algebraic concepts need to be taught earlier so students learn to think conceptually about math. They are better off knowing that diverse texts and the study of history of multiple cultures lead to a better understanding of our current world; better off doing scientific experiments in the classroom instead of watching videos.

And, they are much better off having physical education teachers who recognize that all students need to feel valued and have the opportunity to move in class (which you don’t do when you get eliminated).

An effective physical education program that uses appropriate instructional practices will prepare Alabama students to lead active and healthy lives and can only benefit the state and its residents.

Back to School Night – A Parent Perspective

    My second grade daughter’s school had their Open House tonight.  It was exactly what you’d expect; shiny floors, all the teachers and admins in their Sunday best, bulletin boards with encouraging messages and materials stacked on each student desk.  We had a fantastic time, by the end of the 30 minutes we were there Ryann declared it, “The best classroom ever.”  Then we went home.

      Our take home assignment for Ryann was a Scavenger Hunt but for Mom and Dad it was the stack of forms required by Baltimore County Public Schools..  On top of all those fun emergency cards and photo permission slips was the class schedule and for the first time we learned about the subject “Collaborative Arts”.  I don’t know what “Collaborative Arts” is, and I’m certainly not ready to pass judgment on it.  However, I do know that Ryann’s participation in it means she will have, at most, 36 physical education classes this year.  Last year she had 45.  Ugh.

      I like my daughter’s school and administrative staff.  She has been treated well and continues to grow academically.   However, I’m frustrated.  She needs to move, she needs to learn skill, she needs to work in that cooperative environment that the gym provides, and now she has ten less chances.  What is a parent to do?

      Experience tells me there is 0 chance that the schedule changes this year. However, I’ve already sent my first email to the administration asking what Collaborative Arts is. and expressing disappointment that PE (as well as Music, Art, and Library) were decreased.  I’m sure my wife would tell me to stop being “that parent”, who is emailing on Back to School night but I have to advocate.  If I don’t advocate for what I think is best for kids then who will?  

      As a parent, and a physical educator I encourage you to have the challenging conversation with administrators about what is happening in physical education classrooms.  Ask, listen, dialogue but stick to your beliefs of the value of physical education in our schools.

Become a PE Pep Talk Ambassador

Originally posted on SHAPE America Exchange

Becoming a PEPEPTalk Ambassador

Welcome to PEPEPTalk where Physical Education Teachers are celebrated, validated and praised for the work they do each day to help motivate and educate our nation’s children to lead a healthy and active lifestyle today and for the rest of their lives. This project has been initiated by Bob Knipe who has seen highly qualified, hardworking and award-winning teacher be under-appreciated and disrespected by their schools and community. To help them keep the fire burning PEPEPTalk has been engaging well-known names in industry, academia, pop culture, research, and athletics in order for them to share why they appreciate the work that Physical and Health Education Teachers do for the youth of our nation. See the current PEPEPTalkers, including Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Dick Fosbury, Gail Devers, Manteo Mitchell, Kevin Carroll, Dr. John Medina and Shannon Miller, by clicking HERE

As a PEPEPTalk Ambassador, you are joining our team in a very important role. Ambassadors will represent PEPEPTalk when reaching out to potential PEPEPTalkers at conferences, in your community or in your personal network. As the Ambassador you will help introduce PEPEPTalk, including why there is a need for pep talks for Health and Physical Educators, sharing how they can contribute and laying out how their PEPEPTalk will be shared with Health and Physical Education Teachers and the world.

However, you will not be doing this on your own or without support and resources. Founder Bob Knipe will be available to take emails, phone calls, comments on this page, and in person if need be. Below you will find a number of resources that can be used to engage with those who you would like to reach out to.


Current PEPEPTalk Videos

The current videos can be used to show potential PEPEPTalkers how their pep talk will be used to reach out to the intended audience, Health and Physical Education Teachers. This will show them the how others have taken PE Pep Talk Youtube Channel

“Cold Email” Template

“PEPEPTalkers Name”,

As an influential member of our society, I am reaching out to you today to ask you to participate in an initiative that is near and dear to my heart. Your participation should only take 5 minutes but will have a lasting impact on students around the nation and around the world. PEPEPTalk’s mission is to celebrate, validate and encourage Health and Physical Education teachers in the work they do each day to help raise a nation of healthy and active citizens. The work these teachers do is needed more now than ever. Will you be one of the many that will stand up to acknowledge these teachers?

Please take 5 minutes of your time to create a short, 30 – 90 second, video on your smartphone or other video camera.

The video should be directed toward Health and Physical Educators and should thank them for the work they do from your perspective, expertise and life experiences. Did a Health and Physical teacher have an impact on your life? Give them a shout out! This video then will be submitted to the PEPEPTalk Team to be edited, published and shared with Health and Physical Education Teachers.

See others’ PEPEPTalks Click Here

Process Outline

Potential PEPEPTalker is contacted in person, or by email, social media and/or over the phone

Video is Recorded 30-90 Seconds, Recorded through as simple as smart phones to professional level cameras

Video is Submitted to PEPEPTalk using text messaging(201-240-4866), DropBox, email ( or any other medium that the PEPEPTalker prefers

Video is processed by the PEPEPTalk editing team that will add branding and titles

PEPEPTalk will be published and a blog will be created

PEPEPTalk will be shared with the Ambassador and PEPEPTalker first and then shared out to the broader Health and Physical Education Community through participating media outlets

Higher Education Projects

As the project was first initiated and shared, a number of professors shared that they would like to activate their undergraduate students as PEPEPTalk Ambassadors. Activating undergraduates for this project can be implemented in a number of classes and could be taken on by majors clubs as one of their initiatives. Ideally, students would have to learn the current trends and challenges in the field to understand why there is a need for teachers to have a pep talk. They would then need to be able to communicate this in person or through a phone call or email to an influential person they would like to see give a PEPEPTalk. The university, program, and student will then be acknowledged both in the video and blog post. This advocacy project could give them insight into what it means to take on the lifestyle of a Health and Physical Education Teacher and give them the advocacy skills needed to help push their future programs and our field into the spotlight it deserved.

PEPEPTalks that your university students can help create can also be from parents, administrators and students directed toward specific Physical Education Teachers and/or programs

Using Social Media for PE PD

Originally posted on SHAPE America Exchange


Reaching out today to share about my desire to have more people engaged in the social media conversation around Physical Education. The field is being shaped by passionate, creative and inspired professionals using social media to collaboratively mold the field 365 days per year with people from around the world. Here is the thing because technology is the language many young professionals speak fluently we often are leaving out more experienced professionals from the conversation. Even with the push at conferences to get plugged into social media, such as here on mySHAPEAmerica, Twitter, YouTube and with a cult following on Voxer many people get signed up, but only to answer the question, “Do you use _______?” with “I have an account”

Well, it is my hopes to take some of you who are at the point where you are interested in finding out whats out there to the point where you feel more confident and comfortable with using these tools as you look to further your practice as a Health and Physical Educator.

Here are some videos that focus on Twitter that will take you from getting signed in to understanding how to engage with others in the field through this tool

KinCart – Implementing the Kinesthetic Classroom

Originally posted on SHAPE America Exchange

Just about a year ago I wrote a blog that shared my journey as the Physical Activity Leader at my school, The University of Texas.

I have since moved on from the school, but I am still getting inquiries on how I implemented “The Kinesthetic Classroom” along with my innovation the “KinCart”

Here is the story of UT Elementary’s journey in this area of school-wide Physical Activity

At The University of Texas Elementary School we have run with this philosophy school wide. For the last 8 years, we have implemented video guided physical activity times with help from partners like HOPSports and GoNoodle, before school and during students homeroom classes. For the past 2 years with over $7,500 in grant funding from HEB, It’s Time Texas and Texas Health and Human Services and money allocated from the school’s budget to implement this approach we have been able to move toward flexible seating, including standup/sit down desks (see our video here ) and utilizing the benefits of kinesthetic learning.

One of the major steps toward school-wide implementation has been a book study around “The Kinesthetic Classroom” The book study idea, started off as an idea for a small group summer book study and was then adopted by the school’s administration to be studied by all staff. We were able to collaborate throughout the summer utilizing Google Docs and even sitting down digitally with one of the authors, Mike Kuczala using Google Hangout.

Upon returning to the school in the fall we had a dedicated professional development time to review the book and discuss ideas for implementation as a full staff. The staff had some great ideas on how to move forward and their enthusiasm was contagious. One of the issues that arose was the fact that some of the activities required equipment to implement.

The “KinCart” was born. Being that we are at an elementary school we cataloged all the activities that require equipment. Find this document HERE. From there we outfitted a cart with all the needed equipment and labeled each bin to correspond with the cataloged activities from the book. The “KinCart” lives in the Physical Education Classroom and is accessible by all teachers. Teachers now can use the book and the catalog to pick and activity. Once they are ready to implement they can come down to the PEC and pick up the corresponding bin to bring back to their classroom. As we take away barriers both in skills, equipment and comfort teachers will have the support to feel confident to implement new approaches to teaching and learning.

Welcome to Our New Community Platform!

Four years ago SHAPE America launched Exchange, a member community that allowed conversations to thrive and connections to grow. As the discussions have evolved over the years, so have the needs of our community.

Built on a proprietary (and expensive) platform, the Exchange community did not easily allow for social media sharing or customization of any kind.

That’s why this summer we went to work on building an even stronger community platform — one that set us on the path to mySHAPE America.

Powered by WordPress, the dynamics of the site will feel familiar, but the interface will be more straightforward, fresher and more focused — all to serve you better.

With this platform, we are able to introduce some cool features that we hope will make it easier to connect with your friends in the community.

Some of the updates we’re most excited about include:

  • A personalized wall in your community profile
  • Social media sharing features
  • Opportunities to “like” posts and activities
  • and so much more!

We’re also excited to showcase our SHAPE America blog to help guide our members in the classroom. Look to our blog to spotlight some of the services, products and resources that are currently available in the HPE marketplace. Real thoughts from members, authors and experts about how these resources benefit you, your school and/or the manufacturer.

At the end of the day, personal stories are the heart of an active community and “Member Voices” articles will give all members a chance to tell their own stories.

At mySHAPE America, we’re also expanding our community to include community advocates — teachers, parents and supporters who believe (as we do) that health and physical education are essential to life skills.  In the Community Advocate Forum we’ll post the advocacy tools and resources to help them fight for programs in their schools.

What I am most excited about with this new platform is that we have more flexibility to modify the community and continue to challenge ourselves to do more and be better.  In the coming months, we hope to add more features including embedded video, online badges and gamification.

If you have thoughts or contributions, please feel free to reach out to me directly. This community is a great place to do it. 

On behalf of the team at SHAPE America, we can’t wait for you to dive in!

So, best wishes as you start your journey on mySHAPE America. And let’s see how many of you I can meet face to face in Tampa when we gather at the 2019 SHAPE America National Convention & Expo.

The Launch of mySHAPEAmerica

I am so very excited about this new community forum. Coming back to school, it’s a great time to connect with our professional community, and I hope members are as enthusiastic as I am about the new site’s easy navigation and flexible setup.

As we begin the year, I am often reflecting on the many champions that I’ve met in my lifetime and career. Most of them SHAPE America members, like you, who have such dedication for the work we do in schools.

And just to be clear, when I say “work” I don’t just mean in teaching our health and physical education content areas. I mean our work on behalf of the health and wellness of all children, and our efforts to put them on the path to health and physical literacy for life.

Around this time of year, I often encounter several wide-eyed, enthusiastic young teachers ready to take a job in my district. They are passionate about teaching and helping children. They are eager to start making a difference and I tell them to stay vigilant.

As adults, we can get lost in our day-to-day tasks, but as teachers, we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted. Our students need us to be watching out for them, and we must look for their signals. Are they getting their basic needs met at home? Do they have the skills to make sound decisions when faced with peer pressure?

These are among the difficult issues our emerging professionals will face in the classroom, and I am so thankful that this community of professionals will be there to help guide them forward.

Your experience, optimism and energy are what make mySHAPE America so exceptional. Thank you!