In the spring of 2007 I attended and presented at the T.E.A.M. (Teachers of Experiential and Adventure Methodology) conference at Northeastern Illinois University.  While attending conferences, sharing ideas, meeting new people, and presenting, I met Elizabeth Mahar, President of the Midwest District of AAHPERD.  Beth asked if I had ever been nominated for Illinois Teacher of the Year.  Three days later I received a letter from Elizabeth saying I was officially nominated.  Since then I have been honored to receive the Illinois and Midwest awards and a finalist at the National level.  I look forward to helping promote the physical education field to its potential. 

I have been a teacher and a coach since 1989.  In college I also started a screen-printing business, Think Ink, Incorporated.  It is now a family-owned business.  This is a full-time job outside of my teaching and coaching career.  I have also started another business called Endorphin Adventures, inc. that puts on adventure race in 2011. I was raised in a family with outstanding work ethics, creativity and self-motivation.  My father was one of the original Navy S.E.A.L.’s and has been a great influence on my life.  When asked what makes a Navy SEAL, his response is, “Motivation.”  That is what I want my students to be – well motivated! 

During my career I have set high standards in everything I do, from developing and running large events, upholding standards in class, presenting at conventions, and creating DVD’s of our programs for students and teachers.  In physical education I hope to go beyond what is expected and provide results that are impressive for any standard.  Our students are hungry for a challenge; I want to give them the opportunities to learn how to be successful by overcoming these challenges.  I truly love what I do and have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours developing programs and events each year to motivate and see what our kids are capable of accomplishing.  CBS 2 News Chicago has covered some of these programs such as the 24 Hour Challenge Run that get the kids involved, but it’s the emotional editorials in the newspapers and letters from proud parents that make it all worthwhile.  My family has always been supportive of what I do, and the payback has been ten fold.  I have also been lucky to have had both my daughter and son in class.  I got to be a proud parent, teacher, and coach.  I am proud of the accomplishments and growth that my own kids and all of my students have made.  I hope to give a taste of what I have done for my students, my department, and the parents at our school on the following pages.  

Questions asked during the selection process in 2008

What are one or two of the newest and/or most innovative activities that you do with your students in physical education?

The 24 Hour Challenge Run has changed our school and thousands of students over the years.  This is a culminating event I developed to challenge kids to their limits and achieve success. Over 400 kids, 50% of the school, will volunteer to run in relay teams of twelve, a mile at a time for the entire 24 hours.  Each student will cover between 12-50 miles.  With over 100 parents involved during the event and the local business that support us, this has truly become a community event.  I then created the Fitness Challenge Marathon.  

This multi-event marathon is only for eighth graders due to the intensity of the event.  This four-person co-ed 26.2-mile race will test everything they have learned.  After a four-page application, ten hours of community service each, and six weeks of training, they will bike, canoe, run, inline skate, and orienteer as a team.  They want to see what they can accomplish and who can finish first.   More students want to be a part of this event each year than what the event can handle.  Over 500 hours of community service will be put in by the participants each year.  The learning experiences students will go through during these two events are unbelievable.  These are programs that have to be seen to be believed.  They have become such significant events grade-schoolers can’t wait to come to our school to take on the challenge of these programs. Parents have even solicited to have their children transferred within the district to our building because of the events.  Just recently, a student posted his documentary of the 24 Hour Run to music on under “LMS 24 Hour Run” to show what he and others have accomplished.  

What is your particular expertise in regard to teaching physical education – what is the focus on your teaching?

Students come to my class with a certain curiosity of what they will be taught that day.  They wonder what interesting or entertaining element I will bring to the class.  As an educator I don’t expect students to do anything I have not been able to do myself.  I still demonstrate everything I teach and perform skills that students may have never seen before or thought possible.  By doing this I hope to get students curious and interested in my class and motivate them to perform beyond what they thought possible. 

What is your philosophy for physical education – what do you believe in?

Willingness to risk, commitment to integrity, determination to stand, and a sense of passion, are all characteristics of success and part of my philosophy.  Physical education has the unique opportunity to develop these characteristics and develop one’s best attributes.  From the physical to the mental, emotional, and social aspects, I want to challenge each one of my kids to reach beyond their comfort zone, give them the tools to be successful, and motivate them to not just do their best but surpass their best.  Helping develop the whole person in my class is something that I thoroughly enjoy.  It’s not always the physical hurdles that need attention.  Awareness and attitude play a large role in student’s goals and achievements in class and life.  Developing the skills of goal setting is extremely important to middle school students.  I hope to reach each of my kids at some point to keep them interested in improving themselves while learning and enjoying my class on a daily basis.  I want to teach my kids to strive to challenge themselves and learn to be successful because they want to, not because I asked them to.

What does being a physical education Teacher of the Year mean to you?

To me it means do what you love and do it well, and don’t give up when others say you can’t.  I was a student that was not supposed to go to college and definitely not for a bachelor’s degree, but I went anyway.  When I got to my student teaching my cooperating teacher was told by the University that I would not make it through, but he said I was the best he had ever had.  I just needed the chance to teach.  Since then I have tried to better myself and my profession the best I can.  I am very honored to be recognized for my passion and to be among fantastic educators.  I also look forward to learning from others and presenting and sharing what I have learned.  What do you do to help other physical education teachers plan and implement exemplary programs? Lead by example and show the passion!  I have had many student teachers over the years, and am now on the Physical Education-Teacher Education Advisory Council at Illinois State University.  I have given presentations throughout Illinois and look forward to presenting around the country sharing some of the incredible programs and accomplishments my students regularly achieve.  I continually consult with other professionals and openly share materials, and also look forward to hearing their ideas.  Several Universities from around the Illinois have sent future professionals to see our programs, and we have regular visits from other professionals to our school. 

Any quotes from students about you as a physical education teacher, or the classes taught by you?

“A good coach improves your game; a great coach improves your life”.  This is a quote from a plaque given to me by my students to commemorate the successful completion of our first Fitness Challenge Marathon. During one of our events a student was talking to one of his friends and said “This is a grandparent moment”.  An adult that was chaperoning the event asked what he meant and replied:  “You know, this is one of those proud moments in your life that when you become a grandparent you’ll share this experience with your grandkids and say: this is what I did when I was your age.”

List three of your “favorite” conference session titles that you have presented, with a brief description of each.

Is that the best you can do?  Prove it!
Challenge yourself and go beyond what is expected.  Gain the respect you deserve and know you are making a difference by pushing the limits of your profession.  Challenge and motivate students to accomplish what nobody thought they could.  See inspirational programs and ideas that change the awareness and attitude of students coming to your class, and develop leaders from followers. Transform the dynamics of your school and see what your students can achieve. 
Self Defense for Middle & High School
A realistic approach from avoidance to releases and basic ground defense.  A valuable life long lesson that all students and adults should know. 
Are You Crazy?!  Going Outside the Box. 
What’s the craziest or innovative idea you’ve done?  Explore and share far-out safe learning experience teachers have created, and bring back a new crazy idea. 

Any additional major teaching awards you have received:

  • EDUCATIONAL YOUTH LEADER (2004) – Presented by the Crystal Lake Jaycees
  • TEACHER OF THE MONTH (October 2005) – Nominated by students and presented by Star 105.5
  • NORTHEASTERN DISTRICT – (April 2007) Illinois Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award through IAHPERD
  • STATE OF ILLINOIS – (May 2007) Illinois Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award through IAPHERD
  • MIDWEST REGION – (September 2007) Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award through  NASPE and AAPHERD
  • NATIONAL – (August 2008) Finalist for Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award through NASPE
  • EVERYDAY HERO’S AWARD - (2014) A yearly award presented by the Northwest Herald and Home State Bank