Thurs, 26 May 2016
Ben Hemberger routinely talks to his physical education students at Fosston (Minn.) High School about getting outside of their comfort zones. “Sometimes if you want to see progress, you need to do things you may not be used to or comfortable doing,” he said.
comfortTo make sure his students have access to IHT’s newest technology, the IHT Zone, Hemberger took his own advice. While he’s used to speaking in front of groups, he’s decidedly less comfortable asking for money. Yet that’s exactly where he found himself earlier this month, speaking to two Fosston civic organizations about the IHT Spirit System. Hemberger appeared in search of the remaining funds to purchase a class set of the new Zone wrist-worn heart rate monitors.

Stepping out of comfort zone

“It was a little out of my comfort zone as well, but when people in our community saw the potential of these devices and system,” he said, “they were more than willing to step in, pitch in where they could because they know it will serve the betterment of our kids.”

At the urging of Fosston High principal Patti Johnson and superintendent Mark Nohner, Hemberger spoke to the local Lions Club and Rotary Club. He explained the Spirit System, how the students use it and why he wanted to upgrade to the Zone monitors from the chest strap monitors. Their response blew him away.

Impressing an influential Rotarian

After a scholarship from the Fosston Education Foundation covered half the cost, the Lions Club made a donation. With that help, Hemberger still needed nearly $1,300. Following his presentation to the Rotarians, Hemberger met Kevin Gish, a Rotarian with a keen eye on health as the director of the local Essentia Health hospital.

“He talked to me afterwards and said they’d like to be a part of it,” Hemberger recalled. “A couple of weeks went by and he sent me an email at school, asking me how we were doing on our fundraising. I told him we were kind of in the same boat, and he said, like he said before that Essentia Health wanted to be a part of it and they were willing to kick in the rest of the money that we needed to raise.”


Hemberger teaches PE and coaches boys basketball at Fosston, where shares a moment with an excited fan during a game.

Had he been wearing one of his class’ Spirit System monitors, Hemberger likely would have hit his maximum heart rate as he sprinted to Johnson’s office.

“I got the email and I couldn’t get down to our principal’s office fast enough to let her know the news,” he said. “I was very surprised. It was humbling and I’m very thankful for the generosity that our community has shown going toward this.”

Practicing what he teaches

The lesson, Hemberger said, is similar to what he tries to impart to his students. To effect change, you have to get away from what makes you comfortable.

“That is something we talk about quite often in class….getting outside your comfort zone,” he said. ”It’s easy to do the bare minimum.”

His students, though, have taken the message to heart.

“You see them trying just a little bit harder,” Hemberger said of his students. “They know there is a goal to hit.”

And they work at hitting that goal.

“They’ll run over to the computer to check where their heart-rate is, to see if they’ve met their goal yet,” he said. “If it’s toward the end of the hour, they will step aside and do a bunch of jumping jacks, push-ups or something to get their heart rate going again if they haven’t met their goal. I think that’s pretty cool.”