Fostering healthy habits

TUMWATER – For Black Hills High School physical education teacher Lisa Summers, the rugby played at Black Hills High School’s fitness class isn’t all about which team scored the most points.

“I’m asking them, what are the health benefits we’re seeing? What are we learning about sportsmanship? … What specific fitness skills are you getting, and what are the biomechanical principles behind that?” she said as ninth-graders worked on their blocking and forward passing.

Summers this month was named High School Teacher of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The announcement was made at the organization’s annual conference in Florida.

Summers competed with four other regional finalists, who in turn were selected from teachers nominated from every state. Black Hills’ physical education department has received that honor at the regional and state levels before. In 2007, Black Hills High School physical education teacher Greg Bert was named the Northwest District High School Physical Educator of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Bert said that the department, which includes teacher Jack Zilla, focuses on the state curriculum for physical education and emphasizes fitness and wellness.

“We teach lifetime sports and lifetime fitness activities, and hopefully, that can inspire kids to become active adults,” Bert said.

“Our job is not to prepare the athletic teams. And, I’m also the tennis coach, (but) we shouldn’t be using P.E. as an athletic farm system,” he said.

The emphasis, he said, is on teaching students how to improve their own fitness and be less intimidated about maintaining fitness.

“So they can go to an aerobics class, or go out to a gym,” Bert said.

Summers said that in the school’s lifetime fitness class, the students alternate days with cardio training – activity designed to raise their heart rates – with strength training such as yoga, weights or Pilates, to get used to good health habits.

Successful students in her class are tested on their skills and knowledge, their understanding of how activities affect their well-being, and how to assess themselves on whether they are improving their health with skills such as taking their own pulse and assessing their effort levels.

“We don’t just learn those principles, we have to apply the principles weekly,” she said.

Bob Melson, the executive director of the Washington Association for Health and Physical Education, said that Bert and Summers have presented at the state conference before and that Summers’ national award could bring more attention to Black Hills’ P.E. program.

“Associations in other states may invite her … to find out why she and her program are so successful,” he said.