Accustomed to running the four and a half miles home after her school day and throughout the neighborhood on weekends, Andrea McMurtry, a physical education teacher at Fishers Junior High in Fishers, Ind., has always enjoyed a level of visibility in her community.
Students see her at local runs and races. She plans and hosts family fitness nights and healthy tailgating parties through the school’s Fuel Up to Play 60, a national program which encourages nutrition and exercise. She raised $22,000 from local merchants and their parent companies to equip a cardio room where students can use rowing machines and cycling bikes to meet their fitness goals.
So when McMurtry won National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) Teacher of the Year for its Midwest district in 2013, she began using her visibility with educators at workshops all over the country as well as teachers in her own building and district.
“I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for health and physical education with young people,” says McMurtry, who pursued her passion through Ball State’s master’s degree in coaching education.
“I wanted something that would make a difference in my program,” she says. In fact, the master’s degree, offered 100 percent online, helped her rethink her approach to physical education instruction.
McMurtry redesigned her district’s health and physical education curriculum so that junior high schoolers take a year-long wellness class that includes three days of 45 minutes of strenuous activity and two days of classroom content emphasizing lifelong health and fitness.
“I want my students to enjoy being at the gym and learn to set their own fitness goals,” says McMurtry. Based on assessments recorded in their wellness books, Fishers’ students work daily to improve their levels of fitness.
The master’s program also altered her coaching philosophy, thanks to texts such as Double Goal Coaching and a web resource known as Positive Coaching Alliance, both of which promote the best practices of elite coaches and the latest research in sports psychology.
“I took those resources to heart and used them with my staff, my own teams, my son’s first grade baseball team, even with my relatives who coach,” says McMurtry, with a laugh. She was coaching three sports and teaching full time while enrolled in Ball State’s program.
The coaching education degree also made her a believer in online education. In addition to her assignment at Fishers Junior High, she is a lead teacher for health classes with the Indiana Online Academy. The academy provides high school classes that are developed and taught by licensed Indiana teachers for partnering schools.
For the 100 high schoolers she teaches each summer, it’s an opportunity for even more students to be inspired by one of the top physical education teachers in the country.
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