Originally published Dec. 26, 2017 in The Forecaster.

By Kate Irish Collins The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Raising awareness around heart health and encouraging students to give back are important life lessons.

That’s why Denise Pressier, the physical education teacher at Lincoln Middle School, enrolls her students in the annual Hoops for Heart community service fundraiser. The Hoops for Heart event benefits the American Heart Association and this year Pressier was honored for her long-time commitment to the cause with the Hoops for Heart Coordinator of the Year award from the Maine chapter of the association.

The presentation took place at the annual conference of the Maine Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, at the Samoset Resort in Rockland. Pressier, who’s taught phys ed at Lincoln Middle for the past 15 years, said, “I was honored to win this award. I have supported this event for many years … (and it) was special to be honored by my peers.”


Denise Pressier, right, physical education teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Portland, recently received the Hoops for Heart Coordinator of the Year award from the American Heart Association. Gary Urey of the association’s Maine chapter presented the award.

The goal of the Hoops for Heart event is “to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke by teaching students how to take care of their hearts and ways to keep healthy,” a School Department press release said.

“For more than a decade, Pressier has spearheaded this annual event with a heart-healthy celebration in February,” the release said.

The funds raised not only benefit the American Heart Association but have also provided Lincoln Middle with educational resources and fitness equipment.

Hoops for Heart is a way for “youth to make a difference in the fight against heart disease and stroke,” Pressier said. “Through Hoops For Heart kids learn basketball skills, learn how their heart works and raise money to help (other) kids with special hearts.”

Pressier said she offers Hoops for Heart for several reasons.

“The first is to teach the students about things to do to keep a healthy heart, (like) eat healthy foods, exercise and never smoke,” she said. “Also, a couple of activities taught in the physical education curriculum include basketball skills and jump-rope skills. This event provides students a fun (way) to practice these skills.”

But, Pressier added, “I (also) hope my students (take this) chance to participate in a community service event to learn to give back.”

Her goal, she said, is to “create a positive memory of physical activity.”

Pressier said other schools across Maine also participate in Hoops for Heart, “but there is always room for (more) schools, daycares (and) youth groups to combine education and community service.”

Pressier, who lives in Portland, said what she most enjoys about teaching physical education is that it’s “a vital part of educating the whole child. I love to share with students my knowledge of motor skills (and) fitness.

“The smiles on their faces when they actually accomplish something they have been practicing is worth (the) challenges,” she said. “When a problem occurs I love for students go through the process to solve that problem and learn a real life lesson.”

“I watch them come in as wide-eyed sixth-graders and watch them mature into eighth-graders. The joy comes from watching them learn and grow. My hopes are for them to find something active they love to do to keep them healthy for the rest of their lives.”

Pressier said she also appreciates what she calls the “diverse population in my school,” which “adds an international aspect to learning.”

Along with the Hoops for Heart, she said Lincoln Middle participates in other healthy initiatives like Let’s Go 5210 and the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

Portland students “are lucky to (live in a) city that honors health and wellness for its citizens and I am proud to teach our (youth) ways to keep healthy,” Pressier said.

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