Barton Hills Elementary physical education teacher Courtney Perry recently won the 2017 TAHPERD (Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance ) Award for Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
AISD.TV’s SportsScene recently caught up with Perry to discuss the honor and her passion for engaging students in learning lifetime fitness.
 
Can you describe Barton Hills and what students can get from being a part of that community? 
 
Barton Hills Elementary is a very engaged and active school.  The students are curious and hardworking; the parents are engaged and incredibly supportive.  
 
The staff is phenomenal – always going above and beyond to create a fun, creative and exciting environment.  Students have the opportunity to explore and learn in a diverse, rigorous and safe environment.
 
Why is physical education an important and necessary part of a child’s education?
 
Physical Education is important and necessary because it allows students a space to do what comes naturally to the human body – MOVE!  Movement is the time for the brain to synthesize information and learning.  
 
Additionally, PE provides time for excitement, creativity and socialization — it’s no wonder a favorite part of a child’s school day!  When you think about the core subjects, and the value that they bring to a child’s life, think about what students learn in PE…how to be physically literate, how to feel confident in moving their bodies in a variety of ways, knowledge of healthy lifestyles, including healthy eating, stress management and tobacco awareness.  
 
All lifetime skills and habits that can change the lives of children, and can positively impact the whole society.
 
Why did you choose to be a Physical Educator, what value does this bring to you?
 
I often say that teaching PE is the blessing of my life.  Truth be told, I happened into the profession accidentally, but teaching PE has given my life direction and purpose.  
 
I feel so fortunate to work with such vibrant children each day — I get to play and move with them; challenge them, as well as learn and grow with them.
 
How does elementary PE help pave the way for the athletic success of a student, especially in middle and high school sports?
 
Elementary PE serves as a foundation of basic skills and sports concepts.  It is my job to develop the skills and grow the athlete in all students; as well as, illuminate how basic skills, such as, an overhand throwing motion or learning to move in a variety of pathways, translates into dynamic sports settings.  
 
Of course, I also recognize athletic ability and encourage students to pursue athletics.
 
What impact do you see in your students over the six years of physical education you have with them? (assuming K-5th, if it is Pre-k-5th then we would say “seven years”)
 
The greatest impact I see over the seven years I have the kids, Kindergarten through 6th grade, is a willingness to “go for it” and not be afraid to fail.  
 
I’ve introduced the students to something I learned in improv classes called the “failure bow.”  If we try and fail, we take a failure bow and the whole class claps for us.  
 
I hope through this supportive, yet challenging environment, the students learn to trust themselves and never be afraid to try.
 
Why is it important to introduce students to a variety of physical disciplines, early on, including recreational sports, dance, but also healthy living?
 
Introduction to a variety of physical disciplines is a key component in providing opportunities for kids to find an activity they love!  
 
Not all students are meant to be athletes, to compete at high levels or even to join a team.  But all people can find some movement they love, whether it be yoga, dance, or hiking, DrumFIT or racing down a field to catch a ball or Frisbee.  
 
The rich lessons we teach in PE about nutrition or tobacco awareness are formative lessons and are incredibly important in bringing up a community that values health and wellness — a community that can then pass on these values to the next generation.
 
What was your reaction to receiving the TAHPERD Teacher of the Year award, and what does it mean to you?
 
I was very surprised to learn that I had won the TAHPERD Teacher of the Year award.  I am surrounded by amazing professional physical educators in Austin ISD, and to know that I have achieved this recognition is humbling.  
 
Overall, I feel incredible gratitude — I know there is no way I could have achieved this honor without the support and engagement of the Barton Hills community.
 
How do you motivate a student who doesn’t care about staying healthy or fit? 
 
When a student doesn’t seem to care about staying healthy or fit, I work hard to find something that inspires them.  
 
I watch carefully for a skill or a concept that ignites their curiosity; then I don’t back down.  I check in with them, encourage them and keep reminding them of the value of a healthy life.  
 
Also, I hope the healthy example I set is a daily reminder and inspiration.
 
What is your favorite activity and why? 
 
You probably won’t expect this answer, but I think my favorite activity is jump rope.  
 
I love watching students grow and achieve in this skill.  It encompasses such fundamental skills, such as coordination, rhythm and timing, and it translates into many other skills and activities.  
 
It’s a real joy to see kids accomplish the basic jump, as well as many other foot patterns, as they progress through their elementary years.