It was the final physical education test for Brookwood Elementary School fourth-grader Caroline Teagarden. She swung the jump-rope confidently while her teacher Babs White stood by with a grade sheet in hand.
Brookwood Elementary physical
education teacher Babs White is
leaving the school after 15 years. White says things have become more complicated since she became an educator 32 years ago.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Good, Caroline. Now what are the words?," White asked.
"X2 straddle," Caroline answered, describing her rope trick, which sounds like it could be some scientific formula.
Things have definitely gotten more complicated since White became an educator 32 years ago. She's spent the last 15 years at Brookwood Elementary building its program with partner Chris Lupica and will be leaving this year after her husband accepted a job in Valdosta, Ga.
"She has truly been very dedicated to students, teaching them not only athletic skills but emphasizing lifelong fitness," Principal Brenda Jones said.
All White said she had was recess when she was a child and didn't have physical education classes until seventh grade.
"Volleyball, basketball, softball and tumbling - that was the only sports I had. All we had were intramurals. I wanted to move to Georgia so I could play basketball," said the Birmingham, Ala. native. "They had a boys team but not for girls."
When she went to college at the University of Montevallo in Alabama, she saw things she had never seen before: organized tennis, soccer and fast-break basketball teams.
The program she has developed at Brookwood is light years away.
There is a long list of activities offered to students - folk dance, tumbling, movement, rhythm, golf, track and field, instruction on using a compass, table tennis, juggling, jump-rope, paddle ball, badminton and bowling, to name a few.
"There are different areas of physical education, not just sports. A kid might say, 'Hey, I like this,"' White said.
It could be that we know more today about how physical fitness is tied to learning. For example, White said the development of rhythm is closely related to a child's ability to read.
"If they don't have a steady beat, it's going to affect everything - reading and writing in the classroom," she said.
Brookwood students can earn their "Locomotor License" if they successfully master motor skills such as hopping, skipping, leaping, jumping, galloping, sliding and the cross-legged walk.
Since she took a 1992 workshop on Phyllis Weikart's teaching method, White has been incorporating language into her lessons, too. That's what Caroline was doing when she described her rope trick. For little ones learning to play basketball, it might be "dribble, dribble, dribble, catch," she said.
Students are asked to learn the jargon to describe everything they do.
Lupica said White will be missed by generations when she moves away. White worked with physical education teacher Ryan Morningstar - who now works at Lewiston Elemementary - and taught his wife Keri at C.T. Walker. There are children at Brookwood now whose parents she taught.
"Babs is very dedicated to the point she finds a way to make things work," Lupica said. "She's always saying, 'finish strong."'
"That's what I'm trying to do," White said.
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