Originally published April 7, 2021 in the Daily Democrat.
By Carlos Guerrero
Physical education has taken one of the hardest hits due to the COVID-19 related campus shutdowns, which began over a year ago.
PE teachers have had to build their physical curriculum from scratch, having the class translate into an online setting and be the perfect level of engagement to keep the students coming back.
When I attended elementary school, the PE teacher was always seen as the rockstar figure among all students on campus. The time spent away from the rigors of the everyday curriculum to play games or do activities with your classmates once or twice a week was cherished.
As a student, you loved the PE days.
These days, while kids may not be back on campus quite yet, the aura and rockstar feel follows Zamora Elementary PE teacher Bob Bodine.
“He is the bright spot in our student’s days,” said Zamora Elementary Principal Felicia Rodoni Wilson. “They look forward to seeing him every single time they get the chance, whether it’s in person or now virtual. He has made the transition to the virtual world so seamless for his students.”
Bodine has spent his entire teaching career at Zamora Elementary. He has first hired as a part-time PE teacher 33 years ago before getting the full-time job a year later. As an Anaheim native, Bodine attended California Polytechnic State University and then went on to earn his teaching credential at Sacramento State.
While on course to earn his credential, Bodine lived in Davis and worked as a teen program coordinator before his first year at Zamora.
While he has taught physical education to middle and high school students during summer school sessions for nearly 15 years, Bodine found his nitch with elementary school students.
“I weighed everything this (elementary) seemed like the best fit for me,” Bodine said. “I think because there is more freedom to do different things. You’re not stuck with units, and you can be so creative with these kids. You can do anything you want, and I think it fits with my personality because I can be creative.”
Before the shutdowns, Bodines classes were similar to standard PE classes you’d find at any elementary school, but it’s via distance learning that his creativity really shines.
“What I do is I set it up like the Jay Leno Show,” Bodine said. “I have like 50 activities that I do, and then every day, I’ll pick like three of them. I’ll work on juggling, and then we can do magic cups. It’s mostly camouflaged core fitness stuff like doing sit-ups, push-ups, burpees, and mountain climbers. I just tweak some things, and sometimes kids will think they are doing different things, but really they are doing the same thing. We do cardio work as well.”
Bodine mentions that he has a long list of brand new equipment that has yet to be touched.
“His Zoom classes are fun and energetic, and he is so incredibly creative,” Rodoni Wilson said. “Teaching the kids how to juggle with socks and doing different things without the kids having the equipment at home. The biggest struggle would be engagement and participation, but Mr. B comes with such a following. If you are a kinder through third grader, you cannot wait to get to him. It’s like a right of passage.”
Socks play a versatile role as balls for students to practice throwing, kicking, and even juggling.
“We are trying to do as much as we can with the limited stuff we can do,” Bodine said. “You can tell and read the children. I just try to engage with them. If they do sit-ups, I’ll do sit-ups with them and encourage them. If they aren’t doing well in one activity, I can switch it up to the next thing.”
PE teachers will naturally radiate an energetic vibe. Without the kids’ energy to feed off, Bodine has had to find ways to manufacture that energy.
“You just make yourself do it,” Bodine said. “By the time I’m done with my last class, I’m exhausted from doing 500 or so jumping jacks and 200 sit-ups. It’s like my workout for the day. When you turn off the computer, you’re exhausted, but every day I get myself excited for my six classes. I feel for the kids being in front of the computer all day.”
Bodine is likely heading into his final years teaching, but his influence will be felt at the school for years to come.
“He truly loves kids and loves teaching,” Rodoni Wilson said. “He is always willing to do whatever it takes. He is historical on our staff and community. He is just such a cornerstone for our school.”