Jenna White doesn’t just teach Physical Education, she teaches students the skills they need to succeed in life: goal-setting, team-building, reaching for your personal best and giving back to the community.
White has taken an often-overlooked subject and transformed it into an indispensable part of the curriculum. Her exciting and innovative approach inspires students to see physical fitness as an essential part of their lives rather than simply a means to an end. She’s made P.E. fun by transforming Orion’s gym into an obstacle course, adding a climbing wall and incorporating themes like the holidays, the Olympics and the Iditarod into her lessons. With White’s help, kids develop an expertise in many diverse skills such as juggling, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, fitness testing, gym hockey and Native skills. She also collaborates with the military to create activities based on real boot camp.
White’s Human Ladder and River Crossing lesson brings students together in an effort to build teamwork, communication and problem solving skills. She works with her students to set goals and offers unlimited support both during and after hours. She also maintains five sets of data for each student so she can gauge their progress and areas needing extra help. Her comprehensive website displays the students’ various activities and charts their growth.
In addition, White encourages her students to be active outside of the classroom. Recently, she organized a challenging 26-mile bike ride for fifth graders that was so popular it’s become an annual tradition. She also organizes a very popular Staff vs. 6th-grade basketball game and involves students in numerous community fundraising activities. According to Orion’s teachers and staff, the social and emotional gains made during P.E. are evident elsewhere. The successes that students experience in P.E. give them the confidence and resilience they need to persevere and try harder, both academically and socially.
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