Originally published Jan. 2, 2020 in the Bridgton News.

By Wayne E. Rivet

When Roxanne Mayhew was younger, she enjoyed being active in sports and thought that one day she would like to pass that same enjoyment onto young children.

“My passion has always been to help students realize how healthy habits early on will help them live longer, productive lives,” Mayhew said.

Last month, Mayhew was awarded the 2019 Elementary Health Teacher of the Year by the Maine Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance at the Samoset Resort in Rockland. Mayhew has been a teacher in the Lake Region School District for 27 years and she is presently at Songo Locks Elementary.

“I was honored to be nominated and to receive this award in front of my colleagues,” she said. “My students over the years helped make this happen by helping me learn how to effectively teach areas of wellness to them.”

The Maine Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance is a nonprofit organization for professionals and students in related fields of health, physical education, recreation and dance.

Mayhew was nominated by a colleague within the MAHPERD organization in early spring of this year. Honor awards are presented in recognition of excellence to their profession and commitment to the organization. Teacher of the Year Awards are presented to health education, physical education and adapted physical education teachers who have demonstrated outstanding dedication to their students and profession.

There was an application process that required the following:

• How candidates practice the following five criteria in their daily instruction — Conducts a quality program as reflected in the Maine Learning Results and the National Standards that reflect an understanding of children’s growth and development; utilizes various teaching methodologies and plans innovative learning experiences to meet individual student’s needs; serves as a positive role model epitomizing personal health and fitness, enjoyment of activity, sportsmanship and sensitivity to students; participates in professional development opportunities; and provides service to the profession through leadership, presentations, and/or writing.

• Essay question, “What is your philosophy of teaching your content area?”

Her response, “My goal as a Health and Physical Education educator is to provide students with the knowledge and skills with which to apply healthy habits to benefit them for a lifetime. Physical well-being affects every aspect of a student’s life, including mental health, self-esteem, social competency, academic aptitude, and the ability to function in any environment. I believe that health and physical activity are crucial in promoting long-term health and wellness.

“Providing activities that engage my students in Health and Physical Education that teach the importance of teamwork, cooperation, movement, fitness, sportsmanship, and compassion are skills they can carry with them throughout their lives. Creating fun hands-on activities that align with the Maine Learning Results and National Standards will promote the development of lifelong health.

“In Health, my goal is to provide students with the skills and health literacy necessary to make informed decisions. I want students to understand the impact of personal choices on individual health and apply strategies that will promote optimal wellness. Students need the tools to make healthy lifestyle choices in nutrition, safety, disease prevention, mental and emotional health, wellness, and drug education. It is important that they feel empowered to spread the message of health to their families and their communities, so they can also be as healthy as possible.

“My favorite fitting quote sums it up; “No other knowledge is more crucial than knowledge about health. Without it, no life goal can be successfully achieved.” (Carnegie Foundation)

• Recommendations: Three letters of recommendation are required — one from the principal; other letters may be from a colleague, a parent who is familiar with the work of the applicant, a current or former student, a supervisor at the school district level, etc.

When asked what she enjoys the most about being a health educator, Mayhew said, “I enjoy most the inquisitive minds of my students when we discuss topics such as first aid, the body systems and how the body works, fitness and numerous others.”

Over a 27-year career, Mayhew has seen many changes.

“There have been big changes over the years. Physical Education used to be centered primarily on sports-related movements, dance, games and stood alone as a discipline. As time has gone by, the scope of PE has widened. It involves more movement, lifelong activities, fitness and the very important learning of what good sportsmanship looks like,” she said. “Health came into play years later when the childhood obesity rates started soaring off the charts. It was then that PE and Health became Wellness. Wellness combines the two nicely and allows us the ability to teach children all of the above and relate it to themselves with the hope that they will be able to make positive health choices as they become young adults.”

She added that the biggest challenge she faces is not having enough time to spend with her students.

“One 40-minute health class per week limits us,” she said. “This District made the shift 10 years ago to place value on teaching health to our students. Just a handful of elementary schools have a designated 40-minute health class with a health teacher. In the past 10 years, our program has allowed us to shuffle topics around at the middle school and high school allowing them more time on pertinent health-related topics at that age level.”

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