Like most physical education teachers, Scott DeTore stresses to his students the importance of regular exercise. The fact that his personal fitness program has earned him awards gives his message even more weight.
In May 2007, after completing a profile and series of competitions, DeTore was named Long Island (New Yorks) fittest man. He went on to win the 2007 National Physique Committee Southern States Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships -- the largest amateur competition of its kind on the East Coast. To earn that title, DeTore completed an obstacle course as well as competed in strength events and a posing competition.
DeTore sees his role as an educator to inspire all his students to adopt healthful lifestyles and view fitness as a way of life -- not just as a few hours of class time every week.
DeTore talked with Education World about his fitness competition experience and the challenges facing todays P.E. teachers and the important roles they play in students lives. He also offered to answer health and fitness questions from other educators; they can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education World: So what did you have to do to earn the title Fittest Man on Long Island? How many people competed? What did you tell your students about your preparations and why you thought it was important to enter the contest?
Scott DeTore: The Long Island Superfit competition took place in May 2007. There were approximately 80 people who submitted entries. In order to earn the title you first had to be picked as one of the eight semi-finalists by the judges based on the information you submitted. Then the readers of Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, voted online for who they thought was the fittest based on their profiles.
The three people who received the most votes had to compete against one another in the exercise physiology laboratory at Adelphi University in events that represented the five components of fitness -- strength, flexibility, bone density, body composition, and cardio-respiratory endurance -- as determined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM.)
I didn't tell my students about the preparation aspect. I entered on a whim and did not expect to win. Truthfully, I entered the contest because I have always loved health and fitness and it was nice to have a goal to shoot for because I am at the gym five a days a week anyway. Afterwards I did think it would have been nice for the students to see this. They sure got a kick out of it...it was so much fun!
EW: What are some of the challenges facing todays physical education teachers?
DeTore: I feel the major challenge is the [reduction in the] frequency and the amount of class time. There is so much one can teach in the discipline of P.E. To try to squeeze it into a 40-minute session, two or three times a week, is tough. This leads to the issue of whether we should teach five or six units or touch on many different ones.
Another challenge facing the profession is the need to lead children into overall wellness. Physical education is a science that enhances total wellness. We as physical educators need to realize the potential impact we can make on schools, communities, and future lives.
EW: What are your goals for your students?
DeTore: My number one goal always has been, still is, and always will be, for my students to have a positive experience in physical education through high social interaction, both teacher-to-student and student-to-student. P.E. was never solely a skills class. As a matter of fact, at this age, with the varying developmental levels, there is a lot more with which to be concerned. Through this positive interaction, an understanding of what we do in class, and our discussions I hope that students comprehend wellness as a state of mind that affects every aspect of their lives. [I want them] to enjoy movement, take care of their bodies, and make fitness a part of their daily lives forever.
EW: How do you apply your expertise as a personal trainer in your P.E. classes?
DeTore: Every class something from my personal training experience is touched upon -- from the way we warm up to the amount of time we spend on a component of fitness or a skill. Also how exercise and diet all touch upon one another. All the information disseminated to my students comes from current articles, and more importantly, studies from the organization to which I belong.
EW: How is todays P.E. curriculum different from what it was a decade ago?
DeTore: Physical education, and even more so, health and fitness lessons, are very dynamic. New information and studies are published frequently; therefore; we understand more about how the body functions and the connection between physical, mental, and social growth. Physical education is now about total wellness. It incorporates lessons on diet, physical fitness, problem solving, team sports, and outdoor adventure challenges.
EW: What can P.E. teachers do to help make exercise more appealing and even fun for kids?
DeTore: For starters, group activities are a great way to go. When a teacher introduces a unit or activity with passion and enthusiasm, students will embrace it. Also, when a new exercise is introduced, I take the same approach I do with my personal training clients. A lot of my clients have never exercised before, either. First, I show a modified version of the exercise to ensure success and then progress to the complete exercise. Second, I do not push them [students or clients] past their comfort zone. Gradual increases, with some variety, are the key to consistency.
EW: Some studies indicate that todays kids could be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents -- due largely to obesity. Do you think people still dont take childhood obesity seriously enough? What can educators do to help reverse this dangerous trend?
DeTore: Unfortunately, no -- look where we are now. Students and even parents have to be properly informed [about the danger of obesity.] I am sad to say a large part of society does not know or is misinformed [about the issue.] [When it comes to health and wellness,] we as Americans now think, "Lets buy it in a bottle." [Maintaining] health and wellness is not a part-time, but a full-time job...meaning it is a lifestyle. There is no quick and easy fix. It is not always easy and sometimes not fun. I will promise this...the more you lead [a healthful] lifestyle, the easier it becomes, because the feeling one attains from a healthful lifestyle is like no other!
We as educators need to tell our students and communities the truth about the proper way to eat and exercise. Offering units of instruction in school, afterschool activities, and working in partnership with health and fitness facilities, and companies and organizations is a great way to start getting the message out.
This e-interview with Scott DeTore is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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