2017 Healthy School Hero: Angie Ellis
Physical Education Teacher; Chairperson, District Wellness Committee, Tiffin City School District
PE teacher Angie Ellis’ students at Washington K-1 Elementary School in Tiffin, Ohio may technically have been closer to Lake Erie than the Pacific Ocean, but they collectively ran and walked enough laps—totaling more than 2,400 miles— during the spring of 2017 to travel all the way from their Midwestern school to the California coast.
Ellis had set the school-wide goal as part of a new recess running/walking program that she developed, organized and coordinated in order to give the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds a fun way to fit in more quality physical activity each week. Students participated in the program 2-3 times a week, earning tokens for each mile (nine laps around the track) they completed to add to a chain necklace they received upon finishing their first mile, as well as being recognized on a school-wide mileage club poster. Ellis spent countless hours manually logging the laps and awarded certificates and prizes to participants at the end of the school year.
“Students were very excited, enthusiastic and motivated to want to participate and complete as many laps as they possibly could,” she says. “In addition to the obvious benefit, students also learned about goal setting and pacing and were reinforcing their math skills with each lap completed!”
Ellis had implemented the recess program—along with a successful “Get Out and Walk Day”—as part of the Ohio Department of Education’s 2016-2017 Physical Activity Pilot Program, an opportunity she had jumped at participating in when she learned about it. Ellis said she’s always been passionate about physical activity, health and wellness, and with the continuing obesity problem in the United States, she believes it’s more important than ever to teach children about the concepts of lifetime good health and and fitness. She’s also familiar with the research indicating that “moving kids are learning kids”—that physical activity can contribute to higher test scores, improved attendance, better behavior in class, and enhanced leadership skills.
That’s why, in addition to providing her students with a high-quality physical education program while she has them in class, Ellis works to give them opportunities for movement throughout the rest of their day and encourages them to be active outside of school. Two years ago, she started “Morning Movement Time,” a daily routine in which she plays a fun movement song after morning announcements and leads students and teachers through a series of exercises to wake up their bodies and brains and “get all their wiggles out before they are expected to learn and work.” She also collaborates with teachers on ways to integrate physical activity breaks into their classrooms, organizes monthly Family Fitness Fun Nights during the second half of the school year, and coordinates a big annual event for the American Heart Association’s Hoops for Heart community service and fundraising program.
To support her students outside of school, Ellis encourages and praises them for participating in sports leagues or physical activity clubs and even attends one or more of each student’s games to cheer them on. She created a Washington “Wall of Fame” to recognize and showcase kids for outstanding achievements related to sports and physical activity, and came up with a fun rhyme to help them remember to fit movement into their daily routines:
Sixty minutes EVERY day
Get up and move
Go out and play
It’s important for you to stay
Fit and healthy in every way!
After turning in a detailed annual report about her school’s participation in Ohio’s Physical Activity Pilot Program, Ellis was informed by the Department of Education’s physical education coordinator that Washington was one of only 14 schools in the state to successfully implement and receive recognition in the program, earning the school distinction on the 2016-2017 state school report card under the Physical Education and Wellness section. Ellis says she plans to coordinate the recess running/walking program again in Spring 2018 and is proud of that and her other efforts to coordinate, implement and direct fun and effective physical activity programs that benefit students in numerous ways.
“Physically active children become physically active adults,” she says. “I believe that I can make a positive impact on my students’ lives not only by teaching them how to become healthy, physically active and fit, but also by providing them with the tools and enjoyable activities that will help them maintain it throughout the rest of their lives.”