North Allegheny physical education teacher preaches fitness for life
Originally published Jan. 31, 2019 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
By Sandy Trozzo
Christopher Jackson sees teaching physical education as a marathon, not a sprint. The goal, he says, is to teach students lifelong fitness habits.
“We don’t roll the ball out much,” he said. “We help students be fit for life.”
Mr. Jackson, 45, who teaches at Peebles Elementary School in the North Allegheny School District, was named “Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year” at the 97th annual Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education Recreation and Dance, Inc. (PSAHPERD) convention.
“It was an honor,” he said. “They picked me and I was pretty stoked for that.”
The McCandless resident also was honored Monday during North Allegheny’s Distinguished Alumni Awards. He is in his 17th year of teaching, 11 of those in North Allegheny.
Mr. Jackson spearheads the wellness committee at Peebles, getting parents and students on the committee this year for the first time. He also serves on committees for dining services and the Pump House Run annual event.
In addition, he “got a bunch of grants for our school,” including a $100,000 grant from Highmark last year to help improve the physical education program, and a $1,175 grant this year from the NA Foundation to purchase “standing desks” for students.
“We’re trying to increase activity into the classrooms, too,” he said. Research shows that active children are better learners, he added.
Over the past two years, more than 400 Peebles students have participated in Kids of Steel, an after-school program spearheaded by Mr. Jackson that encourages students to be more physically active. His students also participate in the “marathon challenge,” an activity spearheaded by North Allegheny Superintendent Robert Scherrer, who is a runner.
This is the fourth year that NA students have participated in the challenge. They run a mini-marathon in spurts, one mile at a time, until they reach 24 miles. The final mile is run during the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon in May.
“I think that is what set me apart — what we are trying to do outside the classroom and move things into people’s lives, beyond the gym,” he said.
PSAHPERD is volunteer-run, nonprofit that provides professional development for health and physical education teachers.
Mr. Jackson was nominated for the award by Randy Nichols, professor in the Department of Physical and Health Education at Slippery Rock University.
Over the years, Mr. Jackson has mentored student-teachers from Slippery Rock. He also served on the university’s wellness committee and the committee to revamp their health and physical education certification program.
Mr. Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree in movement science from Liverpool University in the United Kingdom, and a master’s degree in exercise sciences and teaching certification at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He also worked as an adjunct professor there for two years.