K. Autumn Jones specialized in special education while studying at CU-Boulder, but finds herself fascinated by what makes a good gym teacher.
Foam noodles in hand, the first grade students at Springs Ranch Elementary School in Colorado Springs ran wildly around the gym in a game of light saber tag. The music from George Lucas’ famous films echoed in the background as Jeff Ingram, physical education teacher at Springs Ranch, encouraged students to use their peripheral vision - that day’s academic lesson – to see their opponents.
“He’s a great role model for the boys,” said Linda Hudson, a fifth grade teacher at Springs Ranch. “Really for all the kids, but especially for the boys.”
Ingram, in his 10th year of teaching physical education, holds teaching to the highest level of professionalism. His passion is precisely what Colorado needs to better the mental and physical health of elementary school students and school systems as a whole.
Honored as Falcon School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2004-2005, Ingram works tirelessly, and his co-workers and students adore him for it.
Ingram started at Springs Ranch in 2002, the year the school opened. He sees all 679 of the school’s students at least once per week for physical education. Each physical education class includes an academic concept based on the 21st century skills and readiness competencies curriculum, set forth by the Colorado Department of Education, alongside a physical activity that employs that specific skill.
Ingram uses his own catchphrase, “Freeze! Melt!” to call the students’ attention. They quickly “freeze” right where they are and “melt” to the ground, crossing their legs and placing their hands in their laps. The students respond enthusiastically to his instruction and are quick to “freeze” and “melt” multiple times during the 45-minute class.
One 45-minute class per week, however, fails to meet the requirements of House Bill 1069, which mandates that each student gets at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Springs Ranch, therefore, is required to look to other physical activity resources.
“It is important that we implement it in a positive, effective way,” he said. “A lot of it rests on how many times the kids have recess throughout the day. But as far as in the classrooms go, we are limited because we have so many kids in the school, only one P.E. teacher and only one gym.”
Despite limited resources, Ingram helped co-create a number of extracurricular activities including Landsharks, a running club at Springs Ranch, and team sports for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. Coaching falls outside the required work day, yet Ingram is just as dedicated to these sports as he is to his classroom.
He even encourages students to do “P.E. homework,” which he defines as 30 minutes a day of some sort of physical activity or exercise. And he discusses what quality exercise really is, and what it is not.
While not used as an assessment tool, nor to meet state requirements, Ingram feels strongly that P.E. homework helps students learn that they need to be physically active beyond the time he shares with them during the school day.
Ingram also lives his mission: playing volleyball and just about any other sport he can get his hands on. This is important, he says, because it shows kids that he is not just telling them how to live healthier lives; he is living a healthier life too.
Autumn Jones is a graduate student at the University of Colorado. She received her bachelor’s degree in education, specializing in special education, in 2010. She currently writes freelance and works in higher education. Find her on Twitter @faithful_writer.