05/07/13 — PEPI model emphasizes schools' physical education

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PEPI model emphasizes schools' physical education

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 7, 2013 1:46 PM

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Apriann Sutton, 16, shows a group of kindergartners how to pass a ball using lacrosse sticks at Eastern Wayne Elementary School on Friday. A junior at Eastern Wayne High School, Apriann is looking at teaching as a potential career because of the opportunity that the PEPI, Physical Education Pupil Instructor, program has given her.

As an educator, Jorg Wagner understands how challenging it is to squeeze in everything that needs to be taught during the school day.

But as a coach and physical education teacher, he appreciates the value of incorporating exercise into the routine.

"I have a daughter at Eastern Wayne Elementary School and I looked at her schedule. There's a very limited time that Katie gets to spend in the P.E. setting, twice a week for 35 or so minutes that would meet up with the physical education requirements," he said.

PEPI came to mind.

The Physical Education Pupil Instructor model has been used in other schools and Wagner visited Cary High School to observe its classes, then obtained further information from the state Department of Public Instruction. He set out to write a curriculum for his own program, then got school board approval to introduce it here.

"We started out for two weeks in the classroom, where I do the basics -- child development, physically and socially and mentally and so forth," he said. "Then they started preparing short lesson plans."

When he approached Eastern Wayne Elementary School, he said there was interest from the teachers to incorporate the program there.

It was a natural fit, the coach said, since the two campuses are adjacent and it would be easy for his students to walk over for the mid-day teaching block.

"Every day, Tuesday through Friday, our kids are going over there," he explained. "Mondays, we spend in the classroom -- how to handle discipline, having music involved in your warm-up, what's age-appropriate for third-graders, teaching basketball, etc."

The high school students receive P.E. credit for the program, he said, and there are several criteria to participate -- they must be at least a junior, play one sport, maintain a grade-point average, and receive recommendations from one coach and two teachers.

There are currently 15 students leading the program at the elementary school, working with seven classes. Before they could even begin, though, they had to observe the teachers to get a feel for the routine.

"They're not a camp counselor," Wagner said. "We're not here for personal entertainment. We want to teach the kids."

In addition to working with the classroom teacher, the group also coordinates things with the school's P.E. teacher, Margaret Delbridge.

Students are required to come up with two lesson plans a week, Wagner said, and each teaches two classes a week and serves as assistant in two others.

"They have P.E. twice a week," he said of the typical elementary schedule. "These kids (taking the PEPI program) basically have P.E. four days a week and then have P.E. on top of this so have six P.E.'s a week.

"I think it's very important that they come very close to or exceed that one-hour-a-day that we're shooting for."

The program is getting rave reviews -- from the students as well as teachers.

"The evaluations that we have gotten back from the teachers are overwhelmingly positive and very supportive," Wagner said. "The type of kids that I invited to join the program, they were good, but they have exceeded my expectations. The kids love them."

The EWH students are also benefiting.

M.J. Morgan, a senior, already knew he wanted to be a gym teacher, so this experience just confirmed it. It helped, he noted, to have Wagner's guidance.

"He's strict but he will make sure you know your stuff," he said.

"This is good because it shows you what teaching would be like," said Brittany Nash, a senior. "I think I want to be a teacher. But I plan to go to college."

Logan Chase, also a senior, had thought she wanted to be a second-grade teacher until she began her PEPI rotation and discovered "how hard it is and how much it takes." She still wants to go into education, she says, but now prefers kindergarten.

"They listen a lot better," she said.

Senior Tamiya Dortch said the program brought back memories of her own childhood.

"I just remember how these activities used to be fun for me while we were in elementary school," she said.

The reasons for participating may be as varied as the high school students themselves.

"I'm just interested in kids. I like kids," said Apriann Sutton, a junior.

"It's nice to be able to influence them and help them become better people even when they're a little young," said Erica Duke, a junior.

"I just like the fact that I get to give back. This is (the school) where I started," said Gary Cox, a senior who plans to study sports medicine.

Even the ones who may not be going into the education field said they have benefited from the experience.