Originally published March 5, 2022 in the Long Beach Post.

By JJ Fiddler

Hypercompetitive physical education classes in school are a thing of the past, and the teachers who are revolutionizing the way students stay active are getting renewed recognition.

Sarah Savala is one of these innovators on the job. She is a physical education and dance teacher at Marshall Academy for the Arts who was recently named Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the California Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD).

“I feel so humbled and blessed,” said Savala, who has been teaching for 22 years. “I think (teaching) was probably something I was destined to do from the beginning.”

Savala is originally from San Diego where she taught and coached soccer until moving to Baldwin Park. She became an instructor with the Long Beach Unified School District in 2015 at Jefferson Middle School. A year later, she started teaching physical education and dance at Marshall Academy for the Arts.

One of the untraditional methods Savala uses in her classes is splitting her students into different smaller squads. The members of the squads have more specific responsibilities to keep their squad performing well in the physical and mental exercises while learning the stepping stones for a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s a lot of social skills,” Savala said. “They develop these skills and they can work well together and push each other and hold each other accountable. It helps me a lot with classroom management and the kids really take on that responsibility. Especially the kids who are already athletic outside of school or who have different levels of ability.”

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    Long Beach Post: PE Teacher's Approach Earns Statewide Award
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    Long Beach Post: PE Teacher's Approach Earns Statewide Award
    Teacher earns statewide award for strategy that incorporates key social skills into physical education classes.
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    Long Beach Post
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