Originally published Jan. 27, 2019 in the Titusville Herald.
By Tyler Brown
A former Titusville man received high accolades for his work of teaching students at Cranberry High School that finding a form of physical fitness they enjoy is a path to a better life.
Shawn Bean, a health and physical education teacher at Cranberry High School, was recognized as High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2018 by the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
“I am very surprised and humbled by it,” he said. “When I was going through college and early in my career, people who received [the Physical Education Teacher of the Year] award, everyone looked up to those people as people who were doing things right. They had it all together and everything. I don’t have everything together, in the sense that I am not perfect, but I go in every day and try to do the best for my students.”
Bean has been teaching at Cranberry High School since the fall of 2006. Bean graduated from Titusville High School in 1998.
The local man’s career began when a friend from Titusville, with whom he was coaching football, gave him the nudge, saying Bean was a good coach and would be a good educator. This launched Bean to Edinboro University, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 2005, and Slippery Rock University, where he received his master’s degree in 2011. He now lives in Franklin with his wife, Melissa, and his two sons, Seldon, 12, and Braysen, 7.
For more than a decade, Bean has been investing his time into helping all of his students live a “higher quality of life,” he said. For him, though, his work does not feel like work.
“I don’t even consider my job a job, or work,” he said. “Teaching is a lifestyle. If your focus is going in every day and putting your students first, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Ritt Smith, principal of Cranberry High School, applauded Bean’s effort, saying he is “always looking for an innovative way to get [students] focused on fitness for life.”
As an example, Smith said that he had recently been in a class Bean was instructing where they were participating in an activity called “fitness drumming,” for which he had shut off the lights, turned on strobes and given each student exercise balls on which the students drummed, with Bean leading the way.
Smith quoted Bean as saying, after the class, “Some of you may not enjoy this, but you are going to find something through your time with us that you are going to enjoy, and that is what you need to focus on for lifetime fitness. Don’t do the things that you don’t enjoy, because you won’t keep doing them. Focus on the things you do enjoy.”
Bean echoed this as central to his approach toward teaching physical fitness. He said that the focus his program has on “fitness for life” is the reason that he teaches the way he does.
“[Fitness for life] is not so much what we do or how we do it,” he said. “It’s why we do it. It’s why we teach what we teach and do what we do. The reason is because it is our job to educate these students for the future so they can find the fitness they enjoy. If you don’t like what you are doing, you aren’t going to do it.”
This focus on lifetime fitness is what inspired Bean toward more eccentric fitness activities, rather than solely focussing on traditional team-based sports. The out-of-the-box activities are “more like the vehicle [they] use,” according to Bean.
“If your program focuses on traditional style team sports, by the time [the students] turn 21, you are only looking at 3 percent of the population, because only about 3 percent play team sports after 21,” Bean said. “I would rather focus on the 97 percent. Athlete or not, they need other ways to live a higher quality of life.”
Teaching is only a part of the work that Bean does for the school district. He is also the department chair, is on the wellness committee, has coached golf, soccer, basketball and softball and frequently hosts Family Fitness Night.
According to Smith, the physical education department opens for family fun and fitness nights two or three times a year, allowing students and their families to come and participate in some of the interesting activities coming out of the physical education department.
In the past, they have had a “Glowga” event, in which around 300 people participated in glow in the dark yoga, as well as an event on Halloween. In the spring, they will be teaching “fitness drumming” as well as “kangaroo jumps” and a few other things, to anyone who wants to come.
Bean said that part of these community-minded events is a hope to change the perception of why they are teaching what they are teaching, showing that healthy lifestyles make lives better. He added that the “big picture is to help change the culture and the community altogether.”
Smith values this aspect of Bean’s work, and said that he “really showcases physical fitness” and serves well as an “ambassador” for the school district.
Amidst grand aspirations to make the community healthier, Bean has not lost sight of his grounding, which he says is his students.
“Everything I do, regardless of what I do, is all about what I feel I can do for my students,” he said.
It is for that dedication and initiative that Bean was honored as High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year. He did assert, however, that a number of people “paved the way” for him to achieve so much.
“A lot of people have been around me and have been a very important piece of my life and an important piece of me being in the position to receive this award,” he said. “I am just so blessed to have people around me who have allowed me to stand on their shoulders and receive this award.”
Specifically, he honored his teachers from Edinboro and Slippery Rock universities, who are, as he said, experts in their field.
He said he was humbled to be chosen and would “try [his] very best to honor that award.”
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