Donna Moore is the type of gym teacher who leads her kids in yoga to reduce stress during days of standardized testing. She’s the sort who decides she wants to teach kids golf, and starts fund-raising to buy a nine-hole course. She’ll also teach her students Dance Dance Revolution to get their little legs shaking.
At Julia Randall Elementary School, where Moore teaches, athletes do not pelt non-athletes with balls during gym class.
Moore’s philosophy centers on teaching those not athletically inclined to love movement.
“Physical education is for every child. It’s not exclusively for the physically gifted,” said Moore. “The kids that I really want to inspire are the kids that have a tendency to sit.”
The Arizona Rural Schools Association recently selected Moore as Gila County Teacher of the Year. The organization will announce its statewide teacher of the year at an October convention.
“This whole thing to me is just so exciting, to even be acknowledged. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed,” Moore said about her chance for a statewide victory.
“She has a passion for what she does,” said JRE Principal Rob Varner, who nominated Moore for the award. He added that Moore is active in physical education organizations, working to improve her field, and works hard to teach kids good lifestyle choices.
Rural teachers have particular challenges, said Beth Blong, assistant director for Arizona Rural Schools Association. Even something so simple as attending a conference, which Moore said she loves to do for inspiration, is more difficult for a rural teacher.
Traveling takes longer and costs more, and substitute teachers are often more difficult to find.
The association determines its teacher of the year by examining a letter of nomination, and other factors like degree of community involvement, and levels of innovation and professional growth.
“This is a great opportunity to recognize those teachers that are in the trenches,” Blong said.
Moore said she’s excited for the recognition. She always talks enthusiastically about physical education, and says attending conventions helps her stay inspired and abreast of trends. “If you keep teaching the same curriculum year after year, I’m going to be bored with it, and if I’m bored, kids will be bored.”
At conventions, she and her colleagues often ask waiters at restaurants what they remember about gym class. “A lot of them will tell us they absolutely hated physical education. They hated being hit with balls when they played dodgeball,” Moore said. “Your kids that were non-athletic grew to dislike movement because of that.”
So Moore is helping kids sell JRE Bulldog mascot T-shirts to raise the last $500 for a nine-hole golf course that costs $1,500. She dreams big enough to apply for $1 million grants to fund an adventure course and inline skates for the entire district. She’ll teach even the non-athletes at Julia Randall Elementary School that movement — and health — doesn’t mean dodgeball.