Teachers and administrators seeking funding for purchases such as IHT ZONE heart rate monitors would do well to follow the strategy employed by longtime Naperville Central (Ill.) High School physical education teacher and administrator Paul Zientarski.
In 1992, Zientarski tested heart rate monitors as a training tool for the high school soccer team he helped coach. He immediately saw how they would benefit the students in his PE class.
“They gave us an authentic assessment for what kids were doing in class,” Zientraski told Interactive Health Technologies in an Oct. 2022 interview. “Instead of saying ‘well you look like you’re working hard’ or the traditional ‘we’re going to run the mile and everyone in this category gets this grade,’ we found we could better grade the kids using HRMs by their effort.”
In short order, Zientarski used the data he’d collected and approached his school board with two requests:
- To make PE a part of the calculations for students’ grade point average, and
- To request funding to purchase enough HRMs to fill out a class set.
The school board saw the data and voted unanimously to include PE in the GPA. The funding request proved much more challenging, something that teachers today can still relate to. The strategies that Zientarski used to secure his funding still work today, along with a number of other options including a continued influx of federal funding to help schools and students recover from the impacts of the COVID pandemic.
“Every school district has discretionary funds, and every PE teacher needs to go and seek those funds for heart rate monitors,” Zientarski said.
Collaborating with Other Departments
It made sense for Zientarski to approach his school’s technology department to request funding for heart rate monitors. It took time, but his persistence – and data – paid off.
“We went to our technology department and kept pestering and pestering them and they finally relented,” Zientarski recalled.
Relented? More likely they saw the teacher’s passion and the data he collected that allowed him to improve both his teaching and his students’ fitness.
Several IHT customers, including Leland and Gray Union High School (Vt.) teacher Tammy Claussen, have worked with colleagues in other departments to secure funding to purchase heart rate monitors. With the 2020-21 school year beginning with students in remote learning, Claussen wanted the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to keep students active and connected to her feedback, but her budget could only cover half of what she needed.
“It was not an easy task to purchase these,” Claussen said. “It is a huge investment. It took me from August to November to get the funding lined up.”
Leland and Gray athletic director Marty Testo heard Claussen describe her need in a faculty meeting and knew immediately he could help. Due to the pandemic, Leland and Gray saw many of its spring and fall 2020 athletic events cancelled, which resulted in an unexpected surplus in Testo’s athletic department budget.
“I wanted to find a way to help the school with this money before it could be reclassified,” he said. “I heard her talking about it in a faculty meeting and I agreed with everything she said. Teaching PE remotely, it’s difficult to see the evidence that we need to see. This is great because it gives a way to find that proof and get kids accustomed to tracking their own success.”
With Testo’s support – and budget – Claussen added the technology she needed for her program to continue to reach students.
Seeking out Local Grants
Selma Middle School (Ind.) PE teacher Tammy Brant didn’t think too much about her frequent trips to Dick’s Sporting Goods, where she eventually met the store manager and struck up a friendly relationship.
“We are in a small community that’s like a little college town,” Brant said. “We have one sporting goods store in town and it’s Dick’s Sporting Goods. I obviously go in there a lot and I got to talk with the assistant store manager quite a bit and I told her about my program, just talking.”
Things changed when Brant received a phone call while at the 2022 SHAPE America national convention in New Orleans. Dick’s had selected her for a $5,000 award to use for her PE program. While Dick’s donates to schools and communities through its Sports Matter Foundation, Brant hadn’t filled out any application. DSG’s regional leadership selected Brant for one of five awards based on its knowledge of her program.
“I knew exactly what I was going to do with that,” she said.
Brant used the award to purchase a set of IHT ZONE heart rate monitors for her program and began using the monitors in the 2022-23 school year.
“This is ideal for what I wanted it to do,” she said. “Kids can see their heart rate. I can look at them and see where they are at just based on the lights.”
Understanding and Applying for Federal Funding
By now teachers may be familiar with the many acronyms related to funding:
- ESSA: the Every Student Succeeds Act
- CARES: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act
- ESSER: the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Recovery Act
- GEER: the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund
The U.S. Department of Education has allocated more than $190 billion to states to distribute to local districts for programs that range from safe and healthy schools, the successful integration of technology and much more. Programs using heart rate technology (and the training to use it) are eligible to receive federal funding.
One administrator says it’s essential that PE teachers and administrators get past the outdated mindset that schools won’t spend money to enhance their programs.
“We are trained in physical education and health to believe that we don’t deserve it,” Irving (Texas) Independent School District Health and PE Coordinator Sandi Cravens said. “It’s not on purpose. That’s just the way it usually works. So, we don’t ask for things and we assume, like I did, that we wouldn’t be eligible. I assumed the money would go to another group of people in our district because that’s usually how it works.”
Fortunately for Cravens, members of her administrative team encouraged her to apply for a portion of her district’s funding, and she’s since received several rounds of ESSA funding to add IHT ZONE heart rate monitors across her district.
Arizona Department of Education Title IV-A Safe, Healthy and Active Students Specialist Keri Schoeff told IHT that teachers should remember to focus on ESSA and Title IV, Part A when making request for federal funding.
“It’s the game-changing grant for us,” Schoeff said. “It has three elements: a well-rounded education, safe and healthy students, and effective use of technology. Physical education falls into all three of those areas.”
Moreover, the fact that health and physical education have been included on the list of 17 subjects that comprise a student’s well-rounded education means that schools must provide for those departments.
“Because a well-rounded education is a student’s civil right, if our schools are not providing health and physical education, we are actually violating our students’ civil rights,” Schoeff said. “One of our talking points when seeking Title IV-A funding is to support health and physical education programs because they are guaranteed civil rights for our students.”
Hopefully that becomes less of an issue moving forward. With nearly $200 billion in federal funding available across the various allocations, teachers and administrators who follow their district’s guidelines for requesting money stand a better chance to receive some. Explaining the need and showing the benefits of technology such as heart rate monitors should be enough to get a grant request approved.
“I feel very supported with my administration,” Naperville North PE leader John Fiore said. “They see the value of what we’re trying to do in our PE program. They see the value. They see the passion and sincerity that we demonstrate toward the kids. There’s no better money spent than on something that directly impacts instruction.”