A PE teacher is raising funds for skateboards and safety equipment for his students.

COURTESY: BEAVERTION EDUCATION FOUNDATION - Matthew Knorr is raising funds to buy skateboards for his physical education students to use at Bridges Academy. Matthew Knorr first started skateboarding as a 7-year-old kid living in California.

"It was kind of a thing that you had to have a skateboard," Knorr said. "I've just always skateboarded, ever since I first had a board in my hand."

About 30 years later, Knorr is a physical education teacher at Bridges Academy, a Beaverton School District referral school for middle and high school students who have been expelled from their first school, or are awaiting placement at another school due to a learning disability. He's seen that a lot of his students share his passion for skateboarding, or want to learn how to skate — so he's trying to bring that into the classroom.

"As a PE teacher, it's not very hard to get to know the kids and figure out what they're into," Knorr said. "A lot of them wanted to skateboard, so I started looking into it. And it kept going from there."

Knorr has a page set up with Beaverton's Choice, the Beaverton Education Foundation's Kickstarter-like crowdsourced fundraising site. He's trying to raise $1,000 for skateboards, helmets, pads and maintenance tools for his students. Parr Lumber has agreed to donate spare lumber so that Knorr also can build ramps and half pipes.

The PE teacher already made his case to the district for teaching skateboarding, which will be a first for Beaverton. Knorr has 30 years of skateboarding and experience as a snowboarding instructor under his belt, and he's developing a curriculum that will focus on skill progression and safety. He's put in this extra work for his students, many of whom don't have much to look forward to at school or at home.

"A lot of them have really terrible home lives," Knorr said. "A lot of them have been abused. A lot of them are part of gangs, so they're into whatever they need to do to be a part of that gang, whether it's stealing or fighting or dealing drugs. … The other kids awaiting placement might be on the (autism) spectrum, or they might have ADHD or emotional disturbances."

Because many of their students do not have supportive families, Knorr and other Bridge Academy teachers will do things that go beyond their job descriptions, like fixing their students' flat bike tires or teaching them behavioral skills that will help them get jobs after high school.

"A lot of times curriculum goes out the window a little bit, and you're just teaching behavior that will help them in the real world," Knorr said.

Bridges Academy doesn't have a traditional physical education space, so sometimes Knorr will rope off the parking lot with caution tape so that his students can play a game of flag football or volleyball, or shoot hoops with the school's one donated basketball hoop. But introductory skateboarding skills can be taught inside his classroom, "at the drop of a hat," making it an ideal lesson plan to add to Knorr's curriculum.

He's considering making one day of the week "Skate Day," so that his students will have something to look forward to, and a healthy outlet for their energy. He said he hopes to raise funds for the project "as soon as possible."

"I think all teachers want to do this for their kids, no matter what they're teaching," Knorr said. "If they find a subject matter that their kids are interested in, you're just going to hold onto that for dear life. You want them to be interested in what they're doing, and actually want to come to school."

Blair Stenvick
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