Originally published Dec. 1, 2021 in the School News Network.

By Erin Albanese

Gladiola Elementary School physical education teacher Becky Flood literally goes the extra mile – or 10, or 15 – every day.

Flood, who’s been teaching in Wyoming Public Schools for 37 years, joined an intense soccer game with third-graders in her gym class on a recent Monday morning, running up and down a small hill with them and passing the ball to youngsters as they worked toward the goal.

Fourth-grader Naomi Cubias watched Flood from the sidelines. “She’s better than all of them,” she said with a note of respect.

She drops for pushups. She runs laps. She dodges balls in the gaga pit. Flood joins the action during five elementary gym classes every day.

“She always plays with us,” said third-grader Xander Puhalski.

Flood gets students moving, running, jumping and shooting hoops by way of enthusiasm, incentives and an occasional, competitive joke. “Hey, whoever gets me out gets 40 pushups,” she shouted, as balls came her way in the gaga pit.

Flood spent nearly 16 years of her career teaching middle school science at the former Jackson Park Junior High before transitioning to physical education at Wyoming Junior High in 2009. She took the elementary role three years ago. Flood, originally from Ludington, graduated from Adrian College, where she received her teaching degree in physical education and science.

‘If you can get right into the action, it builds way more engagement. Everyone is moving. You want them to have fun.’

— Gladiola Elementary School physical education teacher Becky Flood

Elementary physical education is a good fit for the teacher who gets up to work out before school each morning and still takes part all the PE games and activities. It’s how she gets to know the children best, she said, by joining in the fun.

She knows children love when an adult plays with them and the evidence is in every high five.

“Look at the connectedness. Look at the relationship building. You can positively say, ‘Nice job, Chole. Nice Job, Alex. Nice job, TJ,’” Flood said. “If you are on the sidelines you are not going to see all of that. If you can get right into the action, it builds way more engagement. Everyone is moving. You want them to have fun.”

Flood knows which students gravitate to the basketball court or can’t wait to run laps, or need an extra nudge to get going. She reaches them all through a lot of variety. “We play more stuff and learn new stuff from Mrs. Flood,” said third-grader Jacob Leos. “She is always nice and always says we are playing a new game.”

‘Unity in the Community’

Flood loves to share the joy of her job and of her students with the community. She recently had officers from the Wyoming Police Department play Capture the Flag with students in the school yard. The K-9 unit also brought their dogs to meet the students.

“It was a riot to see the police officers in that light,” Flood said. “They loved the police officers. They were asking them for hugs. It was very positive.”

She’s also inviting the Wyoming High School basketball team and the Grand Rapids Gold (formerly Grand Rapids Drive) to play ball with the classes, along with, she hopes, many other guests.

“‘Unity in the community’ is what I’m calling it,” Flood said. “I’d like the mayor to come in, and our administration, teachers and parents,” she said.

Principal Cheryl Corpus loves how Flood provides opportunities to students that go beyond a typical gym class. She has them set fitness goals, such as having them keep track of miles in the school’s mileage club. Because of Flood, “physical education becomes a connection to the real world and the classroom,” Corpus said.

For Flood, it’s about embracing the time students get to head outside for a ball game or shoot hoops in the gym, the class period sandwiched between math and reading when they can run and jump and play.

After 37 years, it’s notable that Flood remains as passionate and energetic as she does, Corpus said. “She’s such a legacy in the district.”

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