CALUMET CITY | State and national recognition is being given to Wentworth Junior High School for the innovative curriculum designed by physical education teachers Mark Foellmer and Brittney Klemenswicz.
Foellmer, in his 19th year at the school, said the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance has asked the two teachers to give a presentation at the organization's annual state conference Nov. 21 and 22 in St. Charles.
"It's one of the biggest in the country," Foellmer said.
He said more than 2,000 people attend the conference and that Wentworth Junior High School is being recognized for the special events the teachers tie in to the curriculum.
"In October, during the fire prevention (month), we started having firemen from the local departments come out and we started doing a fireman's challenge," Foellmer said. "We found out what kind of workout routine the firemen do."
Exercise stations were designed that included carrying a weighted bag through an obstacle course and knocking down an exercise mat with a swimming pool noodle to simulate breaking down a door to gain entry into a burning building.
Foellmer said the teachers also have tried to reinforce what students are learning in their core curriculum by doing such activities as a math scavenger hunt and having students figure out the percentage of free throws made.
"There's just so much research out there that says students learn better if they're physically active," Foellmer said. "If you can somehow combine what they're supposed to learn in their core class with physical activity, it would stick in their minds better."
Foellmer and Klemenswicz also have been asked to give the same presentation at the national conference of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance in April in St. Louis.
"This is outstanding recognition for Wentworth Junior High School," Foellmer said. "It just reinforces to me that we are doing something right."
Foellmer said the ultimate goal is to see the inclusion of core curriculum into lesson plans pay off with strong test results.
Klemenswicz said the duo designed a Family Fitness Night last year in which families came out for a couple of hours to participate in games and relays and that she plans to include a description of those activities in the presentation.
"It's just really nice to be recognized for the work that you put in," she said.
Klemenswicz earned individual recognition from the Northeastern District of the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance last month when she was presented with the Young Professional Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.
The Northeastern District of the association includes Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties.
The Eastern Illinois University graduate is in her fifth year at Wentworth Junior High.
"It's really nice to be in a positive spotlight for P.E. because, unfortunately, I don't think we always get recognized as much as we should and I think our job is very important in keeping the kids healthy and teaching them the importance of living a healthy lifestyle," Klemenswicz said.
She said she does not know exactly why she was chosen to receive the award. Only middle school physical education teachers with five years or less experience are eligible. But she did say she was told her school is doing unique things in terms of curriculum.
Foellmer called his colleague a creative teacher who is trying to make a difference in the lives of students.
"She's very passionate about physical education, about the job itself," he said.