In this multi-part Q/A, Thriving Schools got together with Ken Dyar, Director of Physicial Education & After School Programs at Delano Union School District in Delano, CA. In his work, Ken has an infectious passion, and is a tireless advocate for physical activity for youth and families. He has a number of great solutions and practice tips for families, educators and schools earned from direct experience.
Ken Dyar was named a California Teacher of the Year in 2006. He is currently the Director of Physical Education & After School Programs, including DUSD’s after school program – POWER (Powerful Outcomes in Wellness, Education, & Recreation). He taught for 18 years prior to this assignment, teaching 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades (13 of those years as a physical educator and department chair at Cecil Avenue Middle School in Delano). He graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 1989 with a B.S. in Physical Education. Ken has led more than 200 PE workshops throughout California, and has done presentations for delegations across the western United States and in Boston and Washington DC.
TS: Usually, when people are super-passionate about a topic, it’s for a reason: Tell us about your attachment to physical activity:
Ken Dyar: When I was six years old, I fell and suffered a head injury which required surgery, Over the years, I have had six additional surgeries. During my recuperation and subsequent physical therapy, I had one of those “lightning bolt” moments. I realized that the only time I was really happy was when I was active. The surgery had temporarily taken that away from me, and I wanted it back. Then it hit me that I wanted to share that love of activity with children. My personal health experiences have shaped not only the kind of teacher I am, but who I am as a person.
TS: What are you most proud of as an educator?
Ken Dyar: My greatest accomplishment in education is two-fold.
First, without exception, every single 8th grader who graduated from my class has left in better physical condition than when they entered. And the kids have had fun! When I was named one of the “People to Watch” by the Bakersfield Californian in 2004, they wrote that I was “making PE classes fun” and that my class was “a kooky combination of jazzercise, boot camp, and kick-boxing.” While I bristle at the boot camp comparison, I love the fact that an outsider can walk in my class for the first time and see the joy on the kids’ faces while they are engaged in activity.
Second, I have been able to realize my dream of giving back to the community I grew up in. One example is that each year we host an “Aerobic Night” for students and their families. To prepare for this event, the kids have to teach one of the aerobic routines we do every day for warm-up to their families. After allowing about 3 weeks for “practice,” the students bring their families on campus and we all do aerobics together. There are no points for style, and we all have a great time moving to the music. When it’s all over, we supply free fruit and water to everyone who attended. At our last event, we had over 1,200 participants.
TS: Has the Aerobic Night carried over into more activity for those families?
Ken Dyar: It is very important to me to get fitness and physical activity into the daily lives of my students and their families. In past years, in addition to “Aerobic Night,” I have implemented “Family Fitness Calendars” into our curriculum. This is PE homework for Cecil Avenue students. These calendars are full of quick, fun, no-money activities that families can do together. Examples of activities include, “Jump rope the alphabet three times (and you can use an invisible rope!),” “toss a paper ball into a trash can 25 times from 15 feet away (have a contest with your family at home!),” and “place a section of newspaper on your chest and run around for 15 minutes, sing only your movement to hold the paper up.”
At the end of each month, the parent signed and returned the calendar, and their child is given a new calendar. It is my hope that these calendars will bring families together, and get them moving.