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Physical Education Takes Hold at BelovED

BeloveED Community Charter School, Jersey City, New Jersey

School Contact: John Taylor

Getting Started

P.E. teachers have almost too much freedom if you ask John Taylor. John, who teaches physical education at BelovED Community Charter School in Jersey City, NJ, said, “The national and state standards [for physical education] are not specific enough, and every state is different.” In his nearly thirteen applied years of fitness assessment, John has tried countless approaches and has struggled to find effective measuring tools for his students’ fitness. University training led John to FitnessGram® long before it became a part of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP), because “FitnessGram empowers and affects the students, and the results are tangible. With FitnessGram, students could recognize their own progress and see how far they’ve come.”

John thinks that through PYFP, school-based fitness education and assessment has come a long way, too. He embraces the program’s holistic approach to student health, which celebrates students’ efforts to be in Healthy Fitness Zones and achieve personal goals, while providing P.E. teachers with the guidance to help students get there. John said he loves PYFP “because it gives you a blueprint with realistic, achievable milestones for teachers and for students. I can do a pretest with a student and use it as a marker to improve upon certain areas. It also helps me map out my year to pick the areas that the students need work in, so I know what to spend time on.”

Up and Running

John believes that PYFP can help P.E. teachers become better educators. PYFP aligns with SHAPE America’s National Standards. According to John, being mindful of those standards helps hold the students, and him, accountable. In his many years as an educator, John knows that telling students what they should do never goes as far as showing them why the changes matter for their health and wellbeing in the long run. With the Healthy Fitness Zone standards, he said, “Maybe you haven’t met your goal yet, but you’re closer to achieving it … students see that they’ve lost a percentage of their body fat, even if they don’t lose weight.” John said his kids “like seeing that they’re in the right column” when he points out where they fall within the Healthy Fitness Zones standards. Employing PYFP recognition like certificates and patches has also been a powerful way for John to motivate his students and bolster their confidence and progress. 

What Comes Next

Kids receive math awards, so “why shouldn’t they receive this?” John asked when speaking about the badges and other PYFP kudos. “What’s really cool is that at the end of the year, it’s such an accomplishment for students to earn their badges. It means something to them.” As someone who has witnessed many of these moments firsthand throughout his career, John can attest to this. Teaching at BelovED, the largest elementary school in Jersey City, you can imagine the size and noise level of assemblies in which students are recognized in front of peers and parents for subjects, including physical education. In their minds, P.E, has come to be regarded with the same weight as other subjects, and making a big deal about the recognition encourages kids to remain engaged. “Even the older kids look forward to these celebrations,” John said with some surprise. Teaching in an urban setting like Jersey City, at a school with an approximately 75% free and reduced lunch rate, as well as a lot of kids from public housing, John does whatever he can to keep his students active during P.E. so they maintain a healthy lifestyle. “We lost two parks last year due to harsh weather,” he said lowering his voice. For PYFP to take hold the way it has with students of all ages, and for them to be excited about recognition, is no small occasion.