Wilson phys ed teacher blends body and mind

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Wilson phys ed teacher blends body and mind

Voice: July 2017

Physical education brings to mind the body, but to a nationally recognized Wilson High School teacher it’s about the whole person.

Elizabeth Burkhart’s approach to a variety of activities, mindfulness, identifying the personal interests of students, and teaching life sports earned the Berks County teacher SHAPE America’s Eastern District’s High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

SHAPE America is the nation’s largest organization of health and physical education professionals, and its Eastern District – one of six nationally – comprises 11 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

The award qualified Burkhart, who was the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, as one of six finalists for SHAPE’s national award.

“It’s a wonderful acknowledgement. I try to do my best every day in school, so it’s nice to get this kind of recognition,’’ said Burkhart, who has been teaching for 10 years. “But I’m just doing my job.’’

Rather than a standard curriculum for the entire class, Burkhart said she incorporates a variety of activities to find something each child likes. A short list includes different forms of yoga, aquatics, strength training, and life skills.

“I try to meet all my students’ needs, and give them life sports and activities,’’ she said.

She also incorporates mindfulness, which she describes as “the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The mind body connection creates various benefits which can help students academically and physically.’’ 

Burkhart does that through meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, and mindful movement – students focus on every movement within their workouts by thinking about what muscles they are using, how it feels, how their body works, and how the movement benefits their body systems.

“Dr. Burkhart possesses the passion, work ethic, and skills necessary to be an outstanding health and physical education teacher,’’ said Pete Rinella, department chair at Wilson. “Our entire community has benefitted greatly from her devotion and effort.’’