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Idaho Voices

Teaching them to play

Sun., Oct. 18, 2009

Ramsey’s Trena Burt earns state award

Ramsey Elementary teacher Trena Burt was recently recognized as the 2009 Idaho Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.

Anna Wilson, principal at Ramsey, knows all about Burt’s dedication, in and out of the gym, and nominated her. She also accompanied Burt to Moscow earlier this month at a statewide P.E. and health teachers conference, where she was given the award during a luncheon.

Burt has been a P.E. teacher at Ramsey and the cross country coach since 1996, and has served as the Coeur d’Alene School District’s cross country coordinator since 1997.

For Burt, P.E. is about more than exercise; it’s about playing. “I love seeing them love to play,” she said. Her classes are “organized play,” but she said that so many kids have lost the art of playing, referring to video games and computers. “As much as kids need reading and math, kids need this (P.E.). If you don’t have your health, you don’t have a lot,” she said.

Burt teaches P.E. at Coeur d’Alene’s new Kinder Center, and also first through fifth grades at Ramsey. Her curriculum for her kindergarten through second-graders teaches basic skills through play, such as throwing a ball and bouncing a basketball, to prepare them when they get in third through fifth grade to learn how to play games such as softball or basketball. In her classes, she has her students help her teach so that her students don’t feel threatened or overwhelmed.

For example, in a basketball exercise, every student is given a ball. She will have the student show the right way to dribble the ball, while she shows the wrong way. “Everyone is so focused on what their doing that they’re not paying attention that Johnny really can’t do this,” she said.

She lets older students make up their own fun, crazy games, using classroom equipment, but “nobody can get out of the game; nobody’s out,” she said.

During her dance unit, which she calls her movement unit, she would tell the kids to make up different moves to music, like a basketball move or a football move, using equipment. “It was OK, we didn’t call it dance. When I say the word dance, the boys just freak out,” she said.

In a continuing effort to have more activities for her students, she encouraged her students to enter the Nickelodeon “Let’s Just Play” sweepstakes in 2007. One of her third-graders won with his essay. The $5,000 grant made it possible for Ramsey to build a climbing wall in the gym. Burt also applies for the Ironman grant every year that helps fund the cross country program in the fall and the Run for Fun program in the spring.

Burt plans to introduce the P.E. Challenge to students in fourth grade, but only fifth-graders are able to practice and compete. “I think it’s just something special for fifth-graders, something they look forward to,” she said.

Burt shared a story of a student who wrote a letter when Burt was recognized as Ramsey’s outstanding teacher during a previous school year. The shy student didn’t care for P.E. and didn’t feel like she could do “anything athletic,” Burt said. But, in Burt’s class, the student said the 45 minutes went by so fast and she had so much fun. She also said in her letter that she thought everybody had a good time and nobody looked at her. Burt said it made her feel like she was making a difference and she told her student she was going to hang it up as a reminder.

“Kids need to learn, play,” Burt said. “They need to learn physical activity, lessons that will be with them for a lifetime – you know, getting along with each other, playing by the rules. I tell my kids, ‘You don’t have to be good in sports to get a good grade in P.E., but you have to be good in sportsmanship.’ That’s what our grade in P.E. is across the district: it is a good attitude, you try your best, and you show good sportsmanship,” Burt said.


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