With childhood obesity growing every year and 22 percent of third through eighth grade students already overweight in the Payson school district, physical fitness and education is more important than ever.
Donna Moore, Julie Randall Elementary School physical education teacher, is on the forefront of creating and implementing innovative programs to reverse the trend of childhood obesity and is already being recognized for her work.
Thanks to her unending drive to make her program the best in the state, Moore may soon become Arizona’s 2010 teacher of the year.
Moore has already been awarded Gila County’s top honor, but is now up against four other top Arizona teachers.
For the past five years, Moore has taught “dynamic physical education” at Julie Randall.
Unlike traditional PE, which uses outdated games like dodge ball to isolate students, Moore said, dynamic relies on teaching students the importance of taking ownership for personal fitness.
The program was developed by Arizona State University physical education professors Robert Pangrazi and Paul Darst and taught to instructors like Moore.
Every day, Moore teaches a four-part lesson that is designed to keep students moving throughout class.
For the first two minutes of class, students warm up and then move to a 10-minute fitness program designed to get heart rates up. For the second half of class, students work on a specific skill, like circuit training and then end class with a game.
Moore said with so many children out of shape today, it is not enough to have them run around a track.
While completing a Physical Education Program grant in March 2009, the Payson School District discovered 28 percent of third to eighth graders were overweight and 10 percent were already obese. This is on track with statistics with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who estimate that by 2010, 20 percent of all U.S. children will be obese.
“We are in the worst of times as children are more overweight than ever before,” Moore said.
She points to TV and video games as the main culprits for physical inactivity in today’s youth and blames unhealthy eating habits on parents.
Moore is using video games, however to her advantage. Through grants, she was able to acquire Dance, Dance Revolution, which is an interactive dance game requiring participants to step on dance squares to music.
She also teaches students and families’ healthy eating habits.
“We have lost the total concept of sitting down to eat dinner,” she said. “Kids have to provide for themselves and they often choose fast food.”
To get the message home to parents, Moore started family fitness nights where parents learn how to get fit with their children.
Besides working on eating habits, Moore said she is committed to helping overweight and unskilled children, who may not like to move, find something they like in PE.
She would like set up extra time during the school day when these students could come in for activity.
“There is so much variety to get fit,” she said. “You have to camouflage what they are doing into a fun activity.”
When kids are having fun, they don’t even realize they are changing their lives.
Through a review process, the Arizona Educational Foundation will determine teacher of the year. The winner will be named at the 2010 Arizona Teacher of the Year Lunch at the Camelback Inn on Thursday, Nov. 5.
If Moore wins the title, she would receive a $20,000-cash reward, a laptop from Intel Corporation, a chance to compete for the national teacher of the year title, a trip to space camp in Huntsville, Ala., a meeting with the president of the United States, a scholarship to Argosy University and professional speech training.
The remaining four ambassadors will serve as spokespersons for their profession and will receive a $5,000-cash reward, a laptop from Intel Corporation, professional speech training, and a scholarship from Argosy University for 50 percent of the cost of tuition toward a master’s or doctorate in education.