Elementary school students often name PE as their favorite class. That typically changes around middle and high school, when the awkward bodily changes of puberty collide with emerging interests like band or art or technology. Only athletes enjoy PE, it seems, while everyone else would rather be doing anything else.
Taylor Winegarner wants to change that mindset. Shes the new physical education and health teacher for freshmen at Iola High School, and her priority is to help students develop a lifelong love of physical activity.
That often means matching a nontraditional student with a nontraditional sport. Not everyone enjoys dribbling a basketball or aiming a soccer ball into a goal. But maybe theyd enjoy tossing a frisbee or swatting a ball over a net.
I like to incorporate different kinds of sports, things kids wouldnt necessarily think to try, like disc golf, Winegarner said. I want to teach students to value PE, so they can have a healthy lifestyle and it doesnt stop when they finish their freshman PE requirement.
Winegarner grew up playing softball and credits a high school softball coach for inspiring her to become a teacher. She tried playing other sports, including volleyball, but admits she wasnt very good at it.
She attended Goddard High School, a 6A school near Wichita that was divided into two 5A schools her sophomore year. She graduated from what remained of Goddard High School. During college, she completed her student teaching at Eisenhower High School, the other half of her former school, where she knew some of the students and teachers.
Her experience at such large, diverse high schools taught her to appreciate the different types of students she encountered. She recognized the need to find sports that appeal to different types of people.
A lot of those students already feel like they dont fit in anyway, so then they come to a class like this where they can actually excel at a sport and see that they do fit in somewhere, she said. Giving them that opportunity is pretty cool.
She even wrote a grant to build a disc golf course on the campus at Eisenhower. She believes her sports philosophy appeals to students and administrators at Iola High School. She began working at the school in March, at the start of the final nine-week period of the previous school year. So far, she said, Iolas students seem excited to try new things.
The more athletic students are going to be kind of skeptical because this type of PE class is not something theyre used to. Theyre probably not going to be as good at an unfamiliar sport because theyve never done it, she said.
And then the students that normally arent as good in PE will probably excel more because theyll be at the same level as those really athletic students. It will be neat to see.
Shes also excited to teach health. She enjoys being in the classroom and wants to teach students how to make healthier life choices.
WINEGARNER graduated from Emporia State University in December with a degree in PE and health, and a minor in coaching. Shes fascinated by the psychology of coaching.
She remembers a girl on her high school softball team, a strong player who often struggled at bat.
When she got into her funk, it seriously ruined the game because shed be so down on herself. Shed be in the dugout crying. She brought everyone down, Winegarner said. I want to teach students how to overcome something like that.
She also points to her former softball coach, who suffered a heart attack during Winegarners junior year and, while being treated for the heart attack, discovered she had cancer. After a few months, the coach returned to lead the team. Winegarner admired the womans determination.
So much of the game is mental, Winegarner said. If youre hyping yourself up and telling yourself youre doing very well, youre going to be better. Mental toughness is something everyone can be better at.