Originally published Nov. 12, 2019 in MySuburbanLife.com.

By F. Amanda Tugade

In Doug Henegar’s class, there’s no room for dodgeball.

In fact, he prefers his class to be called “physical education” and not “gym.” It’s the little things that matter, especially when teaching children and pre-teens, he said.

There’s a fear that exists with classic games such as dodgeball “that people getting out need the most work,” said Henegar, a six-year physical education teacher in Berwyn South School District 100. That fear often can transpire into “horror stories,” which could discourage students from participating and discovering new interests.

Instead, Henegar teaches his students about fitness and what it means to be healthy from head to toe. From dedicating an hour a day to playing outside or creating new friendships, Henegar’s lessons focus on making good choices.

“I’m not giving you a grade on whether you are the fastest kid in class,” said Henegar, who has taught at both Irving and Piper elementary schools. “I’m giving you a grade on whether you are pushing to make yourself better.”

Doug Henagar, a physical education teacher at Berwyn South School District 100, poses for a picture with George McCaskey, chairman of the Chicago Bears. Henagar was recently named Symetra Heroes in the Classroom, an award sponsored by Symetra Financial and the NFL.

Henegar’s nonstop effort in fostering a positive learning environment recently earned him a Symetra’s Heroes in the Classroom award. In partnership with the NFL, Symetra Financial, a Washington state-based insurance company, awarded more than a dozen teachers from the Chicago area for their dedication and hard work.

Henegar was one of 16 nominees who received a $2,000 donation from Symetra for supplies. He also got tickets to a Chicago Bears home game.

“It was emotionally overwhelming,” he said of the Oct. 17 surprise school assembly at Piper. “It was very exciting.”

Piper principal Samantha Shuman wasn’t surprised at all about Henegar’s win. From the moment she met him, she saw his potential and passion.

“There is no one else more deserving of that award,” Shuman said.

Shuman went on to talk about Henegar’s vision. It’s about getting everyone – faculty, family and friends – involved and thinking outside the box. Fitness is not restricted to monthly gym memberships or playing on sports teams, and Henegar has worked to send out the simple message that fitness is accessible to all, she said.

Throughout the years that Henegar has been a part of District 100, he has helped organize family-driven activities and health and wellness fairs with community partners. Last fall, Henegar teamed up with Piper PTO and Our American Voice, a nonprofit based in Chicago that empowers teachers and students, and raised money for a rock climbing wall.

The rock climbing wall, which was unveiled this school year, is no longer a dream. It’s now a reality, a small reminder of what happens when people come together and work toward a common goal.

“He just wanted the kids to really make healthy lifestyle choices, and he wants to be able to give them that access to what they need to do that,” Shuman said.

Shuman’s sentiments rang true for Henegar, who was inspired by his teachers, including his mother, to pursue a career in education. From Downers Grove South High School to Northern Illinois University, Henegar met many mentors who taught him about the main difference between gym and physical education.

Gym is a task, while physical education lays down the foundation for living.

“You may not be the fastest or the strongest,” Henegar said. “But that doesn’t mean that you can’t help yourself grow. We’re all different, but are you trying to make yourself better? And, if not, what is it going to take to motivate you to get better?”

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