A Pleasanton teacher won a top national title in physical fitness instruction as the 2020 SHAPE America National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year this week.
Pleasanton Unified School District instructor Cindi Chase, who has taught adapted physical education for nearly 18 years at several local schools including Vintage Hills and Walnut Grove Elementary, was nominated for the honor by her colleagues last year, along with Diane Farthing, a longtime health educator at Amador Valley High who won SHAPE's District Health Education Teacher of the Year Award.
Chase heard the good news via a live Zoom feed on Monday, she told the Weekly. Because of sheltering in place, this year the national awards were held in virtual format with a different day dedicated to highlighting the winners of each category.
"I share this award that represents everyone I've ever worked with," Chase said. "We're not an island; this is a collaboration and connected piece, and I'm just proud to be a part of this organization and this field. It's all about the students -- we do this because we have a passion and a heart for our students."
The nomination process that began last year for Chase involved filling out an extensive application packet and obtaining letters of recommendation, submitting unedited video footage of Chase teaching a physical fitness class, and an intensive 30-minute online interview with some of the country's top adapted physical fitness experts. The latter was an experience that Chase said was a bit nerve wracking but ultimately kinder than she had expected.
"You wonder what they're thinking," Chase said about the interviewers. "I've been told by other people that they're supposed to be straight faced and they kind of smiled a bit. When you say something and you have three people staring at you ... you want some emotional response. That's what I was most afraid of with that interview and they were kinder than that."
For the next year, Chase will be a SHAPE representative and have the opportunity to present at the national convention and related conferences.
"That's probably the most daunting thing for me because ... I haven't done as much presenting. I think I'm going to get a lot of experience there," she added.
Since sheltering in place started, Chase's work in adaptive fitness has taken on new significance.
"We all are teaching differently. We're all trying to connect with our students. We're all adjusting," Chase said. "At home, teaching physical education is very adapted because that kid doesn't have a ball or balloon, so what are you going to do. Families are getting an opportunity to be involved in it."
Chase continued, "Fortunately, we're a pretty might organization between me and my colleagues. We try to meet the needs of the students and adapt the goals. We're still providing quality education, we're just making sure the meaningful parts -- the social, emotional learning -- are number one. It's not easy and we survived the first month -- I think that was the hardest moment."