Originally published Jan. 8, 2019 in the York Weekly/Seacoastline.com

By Ralph Morang

Coastal Ridge Elementary School Fitness and Health Teacher Rich Johnston has hit the ground running. Literally.

Johnston said his focus is on making sure the curriculum hits on all the standards for each grade. More importantly to him is that the students, who are in grades 2-4, look forward to coming to their physical education class each week, and that they learn fitness and health can be fun.

family fit night“In addition to teaching them how to be fit and healthy and why it’s important, my hope is that they all find a way to pursue fitness that works for them,” Johnston said.

He tells his students a physical education class once a week is not enough to become a fit person, and he tries to show them the many ways one might choose to pursue fitness.

One way is Family Fit Night set for Wednesday, Jan. 16, run in cooperation with DuoFit Seacoast, a personal training team. The event is open to all York elementary school children, and they must bring a parent or other relative.

The first Family Fit Night was held in November, and after the Jan. 16 session, it will be held once a month.

Jonna Dijkstra, of DuoFit Seacoast, said, “It’s a great way to let off steam!”

She said the workouts might include wall-sits, push-ups and jumping jacks. There is no cost, but Dijkstra said to bring water and shoes.

“It’s a great way to bond,” she added.

DuoFit, run with partner Kate Smith, offers personal training at home gyms or other locations. They are donating their time to Family Fit Night. They also work with York Parks and Recreation.

Dijkstra said, “Fitness is a lifestyle for everyone.”

Johnston also has programs before and after school for students. One is “Wake Up and Walk” mornings, held Fridays seasonally. Another is a fitness club, an extracurricular class by invitation for some students. There are also Bike to School Day and Wednesday Walking from the York Library to the school.

He also works on the importance of good nutrition with a game of tag called “Food Group Games.”

Johnston said, “You don’t have to be an ‘athlete’ or play team sports to be fit. That’s what is so great about fitness. There really is something for everybody, it’s just a matter of unlocking that passion and helping them find what works for them.”

Johnston left the technology industry after 15 years to pursue a career in education. After teaching third and fourth grades at CRES for 12 years, he decided to become a PE teacher.

“Although I decided on a different path to begin my career, I always wanted to be a PE teacher, and I let others in my life convince me otherwise. Now I’m doing what I’ve always truly wanted to do and I just love it,” he said.

He took the post last year after the retirement of Eileen Brault, who spent 42 years teaching physical education. He lives in York with his wife and two teenage children.

“I want these kids to see fitness and health as a lifestyle choice and life-long pursuit,” he said.

Family Fit Night for Coastal Ridge Elementary School and Village Elementary School students and their families will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Jan. 16 in the CRES gymnasium.

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