Originally published Dec. 19, 2017 in the Wyoming Business Report.
By GREGORY R.C. HASMAN
Fourth-year teacher wins state honor for encouraging healthy habits
ROCK SPRINGS — Seeing students develop physical and emotional skills is important to Desert View Elementary School teacher Mathew Gardner.
The 30-year-old’s role in shaping students attitudes and improving their coordination played a key role in him taking home the Wyoming Association for Health and Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Marburger Gates Award for young professionals in November.
“You want to try and be the best teacher you can be,” he said.
Gardner is in his fourth year at Desert View, his first teaching job. His dad taught physical education in Cheyenne for 35 years. He originally majored in political science at the University of Wyoming before changing his mind and focusing on education.
Desert View Principal Barbara Rezzonico said she is “very proud of the recognition of Mr. Gardner.”
Over the past two years, she said he has proved to be an up-and-coming leader in the advancement of physical education and health in our building.
He said the biggest rewards of the job are seeing kids progress in the skills they are taught and building relationships with students.
In kindergarten they are kind of shy, but when they get to the fourth-grade “you can have good conversations with them,” he said.
Gardner said first- and second-graders are judged on skills, like backward rolls and cartwheels, and behavior such as displaying good sportsmanship. Third- and fourth-grade students focus more on locomotive movements, like jumping; body control; and manipulative activities like throwing and kicking.
Each class is split into two 25-minute sections, inside the gymnasium and then the classroom.
In the classroom, students learn about various items such as nutrition, decision-making and how to say no to peer pressure, he said.
Students also get to choose a fruit before they get into their seats. The current options consist of mini bananas, radishes and tomatoes.
Other Sweetwater County School District No. 1 physical education and health teachers to receive WAHPERD awards are Ruth Casey, elementary physical education; Darcy Bath, health education; and Heather Anderson, adaptive physical education.
WAHPERD is an educational and service organization, structured for the purposes of empowering, encouraging, supporting, and providing assistance to its members, students, and the public. It also seeks to initiate, develop, and conduct programs in health, leisure, and movement-related activities for the promotion of healthy lifestyles and the enrichment of human life, according to its mission statement.
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