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Eighth grade physical education teacher Todd Stoddard was honored in May with virtual ceremony

"How do we make PE meaningful, safe, fun, and something that all kids enjoy?"

That's the question Lakeridge Middle School PE teacher Todd Stoddard asks himself when implementing curriculum and interacting with students. In May, Stoddard was recognized for his commitment to quality teaching with a national award. SUBMITTED PHOTO: TODD STODDARD - Todd Stoddard

Wearing a suit and tie and sitting in his living room one evening in May, Stoddard watched a red carpet ceremony take place over Zoom. Moments later he was honored as the 2020 National Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year.

The award was given by Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE), a nonprofit membership organization that serves as a voice for over 200,000 PE educators across the country.

Stoddard said usually there is a week-long professional development conference where PE teachers all over the country gather before the awards ceremony, but because of physical distancing measures due to COVID-19 the conference was canceled and the ceremony was held virtually.

"It was a weird feeling because I was in my house but I was dressed in a suit and tie," he said.

Stoddard said it was nice having his wife and kids on the call with him.

After he was announced the winner, Stoddard said he was completely shocked.

The four other teachers in the running were educators who Stoddard looked up to and learned from.

"I was just honored to be included in the group with them," he said.

He gave a short acceptance speech thanking his family, colleagues and administration and after the call had ended, he had a celebratory dance party with his family.

He said just going through the application process was a win in his book because it made him a better teacher. The process included reflective writing that helped him process how he was teaching and how he could be even more thoughtful in future teaching scenarios.

"It drove home the importance of clear expectations," he said.

When Stoddard was in school, PE was always one of his favorite subjects. In high school he played basketball and baseball, and in college he continued to play baseball.

"When I was playing baseball in college I ended up getting hurt," Stoddard said.

He said he was doing everything his coaches and trainers told him to, so the injury was really confusing.

He started taking classes about human anatomy and learned things he wished he had known when he was playing sports. That was when he first considered becoming a teacher.

"I love having fun. I love being in the gym with kids and watching them laugh and play," he said. At the same time, Stoddard takes his role as an educator very seriously.

"PE isn't just recess … we're working on bettering some aspect of ourselves every single day," he said.

PE at LMS isn't all lunges, running drills and soccer matches that don't count for anything. The community invested in a 14-foot rock wall, and there is a Parkour unit in the curriculum where students learn the basics of vaulting and tumbling.

"We've really tried to focus more on individual activities that you can do forever," he said. "Most people in their adult lives don't play soccer to stay healthy."

Stoddard said his award was a team effort.

"I just think that as much as I was the one who the award went to, it's a team effort in lots of ways," he said.

Stoddard said his colleagues, Hayley Vause and Mark Waufle, were just as much a part of the successful program at LMS as himself.

"We really tried to create a program where all three grades are doing the same thing," Stoddard said.

Stoddard also said a lot of credit goes to the Principal Kurt Schultz and Assistant Principal Jennie Knapp for their continued support of the program.

"Even though I was the one that was recognized as the one doing awesome things, it really was the whole school, the parents — the whole community," Stoddard said.

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