Originally published March 29, 2023 in the Bitterroot Star.
By John Dowd
For many people, (physical education) class is the one young people take because it is required by the curriculum, and for many gym teachers, it may be considered just an easy class to teach.
However, for Stevensville resident and retired health and physical education teacher Robert Gensemer, PE should be treated, and taught, with more respect.
“It’s an underserved subject,” said Gensemer.
Gensemer spent well over 30 years teaching both in Pennsylvania, where he is from, and in Colorado. Living in Pennsylvania, he taught at McCaskey High School in Lancaster, then moved to Denver where he taught at the University of Denver. After that, he finally found himself back in Pennsylvania teaching at Edinboro University in Edinboro. For him, the subjects of sports classes and physical education had great potential to change lives for the better.
“There is nothing else in school that deals with those life issues,” said Gensemer, mentioning various potential aspects of the course.
Among them, the retired teacher mentioned the potential to teach nutrition, life choices, and both mental and physical health. He explained that it can not only teach young people how to use their bodies, but to carry on a healthy and active life and approach life decisions in a wholesome way.
Gensemer cites his childhood in a small town in Pennsylvania as the source for his views on life and the subjects he taught. Growing up among groups like the Amish, Gensemer learned powerful life lessons.
He said, “Small town life stayed with me forever, and those values stayed with me too.”
He explained that “living around and with people whose values are apparent” had a deep effect on him. “I liked the way they treated each other.”