Sixteen schools in Cherokee County have been honored by Gov. Nathan Deal for making students’ physical fitness and nutrition a top priority, the school system announced Wednesday.
For the first time, the governor has chosen 112 Georgia schools to the Student Health and Physical Education, or SHAPE, Honor Roll.
Physical education teachers throughout the state over the last year submitted information about their school’s efforts on the Fitness Gram and other areas of student wellness to earn the Honor Roll designation.
To address the issue of childhood obesity, the SHAPE initiative merges governmental, philanthropic and academic and business communities throughout the state.
Katie Rogers, health policy advisor for the governor’s office, said of the 183 schools that applied, only 112 of Georgia’s 2,291 public schools were named to the first-time Honor Roll. Gold Medals were awarded to 39 schools, Silver Medals were awarded to 34 schools, and 39 received Bronze Medals.
Rogers said the SHAPE program began in accordance with a 2009 bill signed into law by former Gov. Sonny Perdue that required fitness test assessments be done in all schools. The law also created a reward and recognition program for schools meeting these health and wellness requirements.
“Last year was the first year we began the program in all school districts and we’ve had an incredible response,” Rogers said. “Schools from every district sent in data.”
Rogers said her department wanted to recognize schools that went above and beyond in their wellness efforts.
“In our inaugural year, we wanted it to be special and highlight these schools,” Rogers said.
Winning schools will receive prizes based on their medal category, which will include banners and sports equipment packages.
Additionally, The Gold Medal schools’ head P.E. teachers will be recognized by Deal and Georgia Department of Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald during a pre-game ceremony on the field at an Atlanta Braves baseball game or an Atlanta Falcons football game.
Amanda Anderson, one of three Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy P.E. teachers, said she and her colleagues, Sharon Peters and Jamie Nelson, work hard to ensure students have a variety of options when it comes to physical activity but were surprised by winning the Gold designation.
“We didn’t really know this is something we could achieve at the beginning,” Anderson said. “I’m just excited that we’re being recognized because the kids will get the honor and praise they deserve.”
Anderson, 27, said she and her colleagues had to change a lot of their curriculum last year to accommodate the new standards to have more of an emphasis on Fitnessgram testing. She said she also submitted an essay about a fitness tracking challenge she tested with her fourth-grade students that may have set the school apart from others that applied.
“We mix it up each day — we might be working on pushups one week and something else the next,” Anderson said. “We try to mix up different exercises to make it fun for them and try to do ones that they love.”
All of the work couldn’t be done without the help of her colleagues, Anderson said.
“With the required 90 hours of P.E., it would be really difficult to meet that goal without them,” Anderson said. “It allows us to provide for the needs of every kid.”
Invigorating her students is enough of an award, Anderson said, but the designation will likely inspire her students to live healthier lives.
“It’s good to get them excited — it gets them even more excited about what you’re doing and what you are trying to teach them,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, it motivates them to do stuff outside of P.E. and keep doing what they’re doing.”
Still, she said the sports package will help the P.E. program, especially with the school district’s limited funds.
“We have a lot of kids and as you could imagine, equipment becomes an issue sometimes with the budget being what it is,” Anderson said.
Looking forward, Anderson said the Gold designation sets a high standard for their efforts this coming year.
“It definitely sets the bar high for us… We look forward to trying to reach it,” Anderson said.
Cherokee’s 15 other schools and the P.E. teachers who made their recognition possible are, in the Gold category: Mill Creek MS, with teachers Dana Townsend, Jana Osborne, Donna Ross, Eliot Galyean, Thomas Fountain and Matt Harrelson; and River Ridge HS, with teachers Sara Goodbread, Barry Lakes, Keith Manus, Robert Braucht, Deborah Lea, Julie Wilt, Syretha Marble and Scott Bradley.
In the Silver category: Carmel ES, with teachers Deborah Krug, Dr. Reginald Kimball and Debra vonMinden; Free Home ES with teacher Ronnie Howell; Freedom MS with teachers Karen Baker, Steve Blackwell, Patty Bonk, Laura Dunlap and Brad DuVall; Hickory Flat ES with teachers Nell Hess and John Turner (retired); Indian Knoll ES with teachers Scott Barber and Jason Bermudez; Johnston ES with teacher Clema Wilkins and Woodstock MS with Rusty Harrelson, Department Head and teachers Jeff Brown, Darrin Clark, Lynn Kavanaugh and Sam Young.
Bronze winners include: Cherokee HS, with Department Head Tonya Carlisle and teachers Matt Cates, Matt Debes, Nick DiGaetano, Matt Ely, Roger Kvam, Josh Shaw and Rob Williams; Clayton ES with teacher Anne Cross; Dean Rusk MS with teachers Janet Roach, Julie Swanson, Steve McGowan and Paul Singer; E.T. Booth MS with teachers Bill Elliott, Rodney Hunter, Michael Roga, Leigh Anne Shaw, Jim Spivey and Kim Wilson; Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy with teacher Chris O’Cleary and Woodstock HS with teachers Anita Dodd, Ricky Glasper, Roy Clayton, Todd Harris, Brent Budde, Julie Crowe and Michael Powell.