Originally published June 10, 2021 by Spectrum News NY.

By Jillian Jorgensen

Sasha Roopchand is the kind of physical education teacher who isn’t afraid to get into the game.

On Wednesday, one of those games was interrupted -- by a special visit from Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter.

“They’re playing and I'm looking around and I see the chancellor running to me, and I’m like, all right, what's happening here,” Roopchand said.

Porter was there to announce that Roopchand had won a Big Apple Award -- one of twenty standout teachers to receive the honor this year, out of thousands nominated citywide. She’d been nominated by her principal, Marcella Carr-Gay.

“She really epitomizes the teacher, not just the phys ed teacher. She's helped me to redefine what physical education looks like in the school,” Carr-Gay said.

Roopchand said her approach to teaching is guided by a simple concept.

“A zip code should not determine the child's future. So no matter where these kids are located, they should be exposed to any and everything,” she said.

That means exposing students to more than 15 sports over their time at the Brooklyn Green school, where she helped develop the phys ed curriculum.

“What scholars experience in sixth grade, they will not experience in seventh or eighth grade -- every school year will be something different for them,” Roopchand said.

Her students enjoy that.

“She introduced all these new activities, and it was very fun because I've never played those games,” Chayyah, a sixth-grader, said.

"She's fun and she gets everyone in the conversation, and doesn't leave anyone out,” her classmate Isher said.

Students said they appreciate everything from the fun on the field to more no-nonsense moments.

"It's tough love. It's like if you do something wrong, she will at least help you try your best,” said sixth-grader Katelyn.

She also works to weave math and literacy lessons into her classes, and was even helping out with school programming while on a recent maternity leave. She said the school community feels like family.

“At the end of the day our kids need us, right? COVID has been so real for everyone, and we got to show up -- it's 25/8, not 24/7 at this point. And whatever they need, you got to try to make the best of it and get wherever they need to them, as well as you can,” Roopchand said.

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    Brooklyn teacher who 'redefines' phys ed receives Big Apple Award
    Teacher recognized with Big Apple Award for creating a new approach to her physical education classes.
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