Originally published April 19, 2020 in The Advocate.
By George Morris
The coronavirus may have closed schools, but physical education teacher Patrick Foy doesn’t think that’s a reason for Shenandoah Elementary students to get lazy — or to miss his sense of humor.
So, Foy is posting a series of workout videos on YouTube and the school’s Facebook page. Think of him as a younger, laid-back and more sardonic Richard Simmons.
“Me and my students have a very sarcastic relationship,” said Foy, 35, who has taught at Shenandoah for seven years. “We do a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. I’m silly with them. I give them silly quotes all the time, so I wanted to make sure they got that side of me.”
“That side” shows up in videos where he has “guest” instructors, like Santa Claus, snowy beard and all, or as a sumo wrestler, complete with an inflated costume that just might meet social-distancing rules. In another, he portrays Chuck Norris’ fictitious brother, Chet. There’s also one where he peppers every session with inspirational quotes like “Get out of bed,” “Stop whining” and “It’s impossible to be quiet if you’re talking.”
His first video, which he posted on March 16, three days after Shenandoah’s last school session, has been viewed more than 6,000 times on YouTube, and he’s produced two to three per week. One of his viewers is third-grader Troy DiBenedetto.
“From the first one, we started it up, and my son is, like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s coach Foy!’” said Betsy DiBenedetto, Troy’s mother. “It’s just been amazing since. … Every day, he’s like, ‘Is there a new one from coach Foy?’”
Foy came up with the idea when word came down that schools would close, and he heard other teachers talking about how they could keep students engaged digitally.
“I was getting paid like they are,” Foy said. “I have a stake in my students. I love being a teacher, so what could I do to stay connected to them where they could still see me, still have fun with me? Maybe I could do some online — silly, but some good, workout videos that they could do to get their energy out for their parents’ sake and still stay fit. It kind of evolved from there.”
Videotaped in Foy’s carport, each workout has about 10 exercises that he demonstrates, and he recommends his students do each of them twice more to complete a 45-minute workout, which is the same length as the classes that he and Shenandoah’s other P.E. teacher, Kelli Lemoine, teach.
Foy has had Lemoine and other faculty serve as co-hosts, including Principal Ann Butler. Since the students may not have exercise equipment at home, he gets them to substitute items, like using canned food in place of dumbbells.
“I’ve shared them with my personal friends,” Butler said. “I have friends who don’t have children in school and aren’t connected but are actually doing the videos just to stay active during this time. Our gyms are shut down. … He’s doing a good workout.”
Foy’s wife, Laura, handles the video production, and daughters, Aubreigh and Annaleigh, make cameo appearances. He often includes bloopers at the end.
“His sense of humor — that’s him every day,” Butler said. “He’s a funny guy, but in the best kind of way. He just is a great guy, and our students love him. To be connected to coach Foy virtually was huge for our children and our families. They look forward to it. We do, too.”