Gym teacher wants kids to start movingWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The rise in childhood obesity is a concern for Dominick Kaple, a first-year physical education teacher at Lake Elementary School.
But Kaple said combating the growing trend is possible, although will take hard work and a change of mindset.
“We need to show kids that there is life outside of technology,” said the New Washington, Ohio, native. “There are so many physical activities. They could go for a walk or take a dog for a walk, ride their bike with their buddies or go roller-blading.”
It’s not uncommon for Kaple to have more than one overweight student in each class. Sometimes all it takes is a growth spurt to thin out, other times the weight is an early indicator of a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.
Kaple teaches physical education for grades second through fifth. He settled in Perrysburg Township after graduating from BGSU in May. He was told repeatedly that aspiring to be a gym teacher was unwise.
“That is all I heard. Go with something different. I figured if there was one job, someone had to get it.”
In his classes, Kaple focuses on gross motor skills for the younger students and brings competition into the mix with the fifth-graders. Gross motor skills involve large muscles of the body, allowing such functions like walking, kicking, lifting and throwing a ball.
“I do a lot of different health things,” Kaple said of his curriculum. “At the beginning of the year, we did the Olympics. We did things on the track when the weather was still nice. … We just got them used to the track; some kids had never been on the track.”
In order to earn gold, silver and bronze medals, the students had to beat their best times.
“This shows the kids how much work they did the past few weeks and we talked about heart rate.”
Even the heavier students were rewarded if they beat their time. They were competing against themselves, not the other students.
I don’t want those kids to hang their heads,” Kaple said. “They got their gold medals – they are no less than the guy who flew around the track.”
Too many times, students of all sizes say they cannot do something, but once Kaple shows them, they conquer that particular skill. At the elementary level, most students are excited about gym class, he said. It’s hard to tell who is athletic in the lower graders, but by fourth and fifth it becomes evident.
“I have a sign in my gym that says your personality shows in how you win and lose. I always stress sportsmanship, especially with the older kids because they get competitive.”
His main focus is familiarity. He wants his students to know the basic skills of basketball and kickball, to at least be able to participate.
“Everything I do, everyone can do,” Kaple said. “Some kids can do it really well and I give them extension tasks. If they are doing dribbling, I set up cones for them to dribble in between.”
Kaple grew up in the country with the nearest city for shopping and eating being Mansfield. He attended Buckeye Central High School, graduating in 2004.
“Nick was always a go-getter, whether it was in class or in sports,” said Jay Zeiter, Buckeye Central High School principal. “He pushed himself very hard to do his best. He was a leader as well. He was the quarterback on our state playoff team and the point guard on our state ranked basketball team. He encouraged and supported his teammates to give it their all. Buckeye Central was fortunate to have Nick as part of our school.”
Kaple credits his coaches and teachers with inspiring him to become a gym teacher, in particular Rick Young and Mike Tracey.
“I applied everywhere; anywhere I could,” Kaple said about landing a job in the Toledo area. “We had the job fair at Bowling Green. Some places wouldn’t look at me because I didn’t have the health [teaching certification] and that really hurt.”
But after student teaching at Otsego and making some connections, he was hired at Lake. Kaple is an assistant coach for varsity football and 8th grade basketball. He will coach high school track in the spring.
“I love it, they treat me great,” he said of Lake. “The kids are good. I have great administration … the football coaches made me feel comfortable … I felt like I was part of the community before even the first day of school.”