Originally published Sept. 14, 2018 in the Shelby County Reporter.
By Nancy Wilstach
Shelia Jett, physical education teacher at Montevallo Middle School, is tackling the problem of inactivity among adolescent girls . . . one heartbeat at a time.
Jett got a big boost to her efforts when Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama presented her school with a $10,000 Be Healthy grant, a part of the health insurance company’s effort to help kids form healthy habits.
Jett and MMS Principal Shelia Lewis were joined by three members of the Shelby County Legislative Delegation and a Blue Cross Blue Shield executive Thursday, Sept. 13, when the grant check was presented to the school.
Part of the money ($4,000) goes to the umbrella organization for which Jett is helping to write a middle school curriculum. That group, based in Vestavia Hills, is HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living); it is dedicated to helping kids learn to enjoy moving more than their thumbs.
“Oh, they like the video games,” Jett said. “We use Wii Dance in class.”
The share of the grant that stays at MMS will buy heart-rate monitors so that Jett’s students can keep track of their heart rates and make comparisons. She also plans to acquire a laptop dedicated to monitoring student progress.
“For example, I may ask them to compare their heart rates after volleyball and after jumba,” she said. Hint: Jumba by a mile.
HEAL is the only comprehensive nutrition and activity program approved by the state, Jett said. Until now it has been aimed solely at elementary students in grades 1-6. Jett’s work with HEAL extends that reach into middle school.
By eighth grade, alas, girls start becoming way more interested in makeup and manicures than in running and jumping. Jett’s work on HEAL’s middle school curriculum is designed to nudge them gently toward the idea that the keys to inner and outer beauty just may be eating nutritiously and maintaining a regimen of physical activity.
To promote that idea, as well as to expand their horizons beyond football and basketball, she introduces the students to sports such as lacrosse and disc golf—not your usual Alabama PE subjects. But those are activities that can be accessed at the nearby University of Montevallo.
“I try to promote more physical activity,” she said. The school is taking the lead to pilot HEAL’s middle school involvement, and Jett intends for her students to set the pace.