Originally published March 29, 2022 by Spectrum News 1.

By Vanessa Leon

Teaching during a pandemic has not been an easy task for teachers, and for physical education teachers, it's been more than a challenge to keep kids active.

Cheryl Markland has been teaching for 31 years, and the last 21 she has spent at Clyde Campbell Elementary School in Catawba County.

Markland was recently named the 2022 NC SHAPE (North Carolina Society of Health and Physical Education) Teacher of the Year.

"When I went off to college, I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist," Markland said.

A professor asked her if she ever thought about teaching, and here she is, decades later teaching elementary physical education classes.

"I like being active all the time, I'm not a person that sits still very easily, it ended up being the best move I've ever made," Markland said.

When the pandemic hit and schools shut down, Markland would send home packets for students with suggested activities, but it was anyone's guess whether the students acted on it or not.

When schools reopened, Markland had to come up with PE activities that were socially distanced and didn't involve touching. She used Styrofoam noodles for students to interact.

Now with restrictions and guidelines easing up, Markland says it's getting easier for her in-person students, but not everyone is back in the classroom.

Every Tuesday following her classes, Markland teaches a virtual PE class to district students who opted out of in-person learning.

“You see how I am in the gym, and my personality and how I throw my personality in the activities we do. It's hard to do that across a video screen. You have to get creative," she said.

Her efforts did not go unrecognized, as Markland earned the teacher of the year award.

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