Dec. 19, 2016

This weekend, we’ll celebrate Christmas with our friends, families, and loved ones. From all of us at IHT, thank you for all the work you do for kids and their health. For me, this past year has been one of understanding gratitude from so many as we lead up to this day of appreciation. Below are some of the valuable lessons I learned about how the holiday spirit comes year-round when we are impacted by teachers:

Lift Others Up By Giving of Yourself

Taught by Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States


When you look for ways to contribute to others, when you use your gifts and give of yourself to help another, it is one of the best joys of life. When that is wrapped around a sense of togetherness, community, and unity, great change happens for us all. Last year, IHT was invited to the White House and I was honored to serve on a sub-committee for Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, which aims to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active in and out of school and to create opportunities for families to move together. The 40+ key stakeholders from across the country who have dedicated their efforts to help strengthen Mrs. Obama’s platform listened to the First Lady celebrate teachers and educational leaders; recognizing those who make a difference in a child’s life through health, every single day. She then announced her long-term commitment to ensure Let’s Move keeps its momentum with her leadership after she leaves the White House in January 2017.



It was evident Mrs. Obama was joyous and grateful from the positive impact of her platform and the difference Let’s Move has made. Hearing that it will be her life’s work beyond her time in the White House was a gift to children and teachers everywhere. Sharing in ideas and innovation with those most passionate about the cause builds us all up. I learned from Mrs. Obama that when you give the gift of sharing what makes you come alive, you create a ripple effect of joy that touches many and builds bridges between everyone. Sharing time with change agents at the center of our nation’s capital – just 4 days after the horrible violence in Paris – I was reminded that we are all connected, we are all in this together and that together, we are stronger. By creating a sense of togetherness and by sharing all the gifts you have with others, you instill a sense of community and well-being in the whole.

Learn more about Let’s Move and Get Involved at

Share Your Abundance and Appreciation

HD Woodson pic of Fuller Gray and Jen

I was humbled to spend my last day in DC with Miriam Kenyon, Director of Physical Education and Health for the DC Public Schools and amazing PE teachers Greg Fuller and Ms. LaQurisha Gray (pictured) at HD Woodson High School. Miriam had an idea last summer to ensure that every single second grader in the DC Public Schools would know how to ride a bicycle. From a small seed of an idea whose goal was to share the abundance of others with children, a big idea and reality bloomed. The school system, with help from the District Department of Transportation and private donors, purchased 1,000 bikes that will rotate to every elementary school by the end of the school year. Now the bike program is part of the District’s new “cornerstone” lessons and a model for the nation.

Learn about the incredible Bike Program started in DC Public Schools.

At HD Woodson High School, I learned how Coach Fuller and Coach Gray are empowering their students every day and sharing their gifts and passion with young people to make a positive difference in their lives.  It was awesome to watch the Spirit System in action and the feedback from the students in how they loved getting the email with their workout summary right after class. Hear how appreciative HD Woodson Principal Darrin Slade is on the work his PE teachers are making in the lives of their students:

HD Woodson Principal Darrin Slade talks about the IHT Spirit System from IHT Spirit System® on Vimeo.


Live With an Attitude of Gratitude

Taught by Doug Hallberg, New York Middle School Teacher of the Year 

Doug-Hallberg-Teacher-of-the-Year-NYNothing gets you more rejuvenated and inspired for what our profession is about then attending a state PE conference, and the NYSAHPERD Convention was filled with more than 1,400 of New York’s finest PE and Health Teachers. Each teacher is impacting young lives that will help them blossom in years to come. I watched IHT partner Doug Hallberg present to over 150 teachers on how he uses the IHT Spirit System to connect with his students at Draper Middle School in the Mohonasen School District. Those 150 teachers took home life lessons that day and will impact tens of thousands of students, thanks to Doug. The next day, Doug accepted the Middle School Teacher of the Year Award and in his acceptance speech he shared with the audience that his success was due to the mentors, teachers and the blessings, big and small that have come into his life. Doug has made a life-long commitment to live with an attitude of gratitude and he taught me that valuing all the goodness, beauty, relationship and love around you every single day brings those things back to you tenfold and becomes a way of reaching back to your natural state of happiness.

Doug Hallberg – 2015 New York Middle School Teacher of the Year Award from IHT Spirit System® on Vimeo.

Appreciate Your Loved Ones and Tell Them They Are Loved

Taught by Russ Ohlson, my Dad

The-OhlsonsMy Dad, Russ, who along with my Mom, was my biggest fan and greatest teacher. On November 26th, he would have been 72 (which seems so young the older I get). Unfortunately, because of a life of smoking and unhealthy habits, he passed away 6 years ago at the very young age of 66. On Thanksgiving, we celebrated at my brother’s house with his beautiful family and my wonderful mom. We continuously tell each other how grateful we are for each other, how much we love each other and we will always toast my Dad and celebrate his life, all missing him dearly. I know my Dad would rather be blowing out candles on a piece of apple pie a la mode, but he taught me the hard way, that if you don’t take care of this one body and this one life you have, it can be taken from you prematurely. The same goes for our world and our future health, especially, our children’s well-being.  I’m reminded this week that you never know the last time you’ll be able to say “thank you” and “I love you” to those who have made such a difference in your life and to see each day as a gift.

This Christmas reach out, give a hug, say thanks and I love you to those teachers and mentors in your life who have inspired you and shown you the way; to those who have loved you, believed in you and made you know that you matter, no matter what. Acknowledge all you have big and small, give yourself a hug, and embrace and be grateful for all of the people and events that make you who you are. Share your gifts with others and help them along their path. Most of all, take the time to focus on what you are thankful for, this thanksgiving and every day of the year.

Now it’s your turn! Share who or what’s at the top of your grateful list