In the Running
PETE master’s student Amber Hall will compete for national high school PE teacher of the year.
Amber Hall, a physical education teacher education (PETE) master’s student, had always planned on a career as an attorney, but after coming to college she realized she wanted to make a difference in the education system. After winning the Utah and regional awards for PE teacher of the year, she is now one of six teachers nominated for the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) National High School PE Teacher of the Year.
“I had always joked about being a PE teacher,” Hall said. “They work in their sweats, they get to play games all day; that’s a sweet job!” However, once she got into college Hall’s viewpoint changed as she took a few education courses. She found so many things that could be improved in the physical education system that she decided to become a PE teacher.
After graduating in 2008, Hall took a position as a PE teacher at Payson High School. The following year she was invited to initiate the physical education program at the new Maple Mountain High School in Spanish Fork, Utah. She used this opportunity to make big changes and set up a new curriculum based on healthy and active lifestyles. “I believe every human being innately likes to move their body,” Hall said. “Then we squelch that innate love by putting them in the classroom and telling them to sit still for hours.” Hall teaches Zumba, pilates, aerobics, crossfit, and other lifetime exercise activities. The statewide Fitness for Life class integrates principles of fitness and nutrition into her classes.
Hall’s up-and-coming teaching style and curriculum have attracted notice on the state, regional, and national levels. After winning the Utah High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year 2012 award from the Utah Association for Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance (UAHPERD), Hall was announced just before Christmas as the AAHPERD Southwest District High School PE Teacher of the Year. She is now competing at the national level to compete against five other teachers for the AAHPERD National High School PE Teacher of the Year award in April.
Hall has conducted research to help others see the importance of new PE curriculum. She set up a cardio cinema at Maple Mountain High School that includes bikes with TV screens, ellipticals, spin bikes, bosu balls, and weights. She used the new workout room to help her with research. She worked with PETE professor Carol Wilkinson to determine whether kids are more motivated on some machines than on others, using students’ heart rates to determine motivation. She put her students on machine rotations, and they recorded their heart rate after each rotation.
Hall and Wilkinson found that students were significantly more motivated on the machines that had TV screens that allowed them to be engaged in virtual realities. They also worked with UAHPERD to help other schools implement new physical education curriculum. Hall and Wilkinson hope to present their findings at the AAHPERD Southwest District Convention in April in Las Vegas.
“I like it when I can see a student find an activity or concept that resonates with them,” Hall said. “They rediscover that love of moving their bodies.”
After she receives her master’s degree in April 2014, Hall plans to go directly into a PETE doctoral program so she can train PE teachers at the university level. Currently she is working on more research that will improve professional development opportunities for PE teachers.
April 15, 2013