Kyle Stallard has taught physical education for two years at YES Prep Southeast and is now in his second year of teaching Physical Education at YES Prep Brays Oaks. We spoke to him about his initiatives to improve the physical health and wellness of students and staff.
What was your path to YES Prep?
I was working for Baylor College of Medicine on their pediatric obesity research team. The team partnered with Southeast, East End, and North Central to conduct research. After working with that program for a year, I realized I was in the office too much and not working enough with students. I wanted to do this work with health and wellness, but on a larger scale so that I could have a more consistent impact on students’ lives.
Why YES Prep?
I love the mission of YES. I am a huge advocate for young people that don’t have the same opportunities that others have. Teaching PE combined my passion for health and wellness with ensuring that students have access to opportunities.
Why are you passionate about physical education?
I like moving and the way it makes my brain feel. There’s a lot of research and science that talks about how the body and brain interact and what exercise does to improve attention, retention of information, focus, and general cognitive abilities. The demographic of students that YES Prep teaches are at a greater risk for Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. If we don’t equip students with the skills to prevent those health conditions, it will impact their quality of life.
Do you coach?
I don’t. I got into PE so that I could provide the skills and culture of health and wellness for students who wouldn’t otherwise get that experience. Only a small portion of our student body participates in sports. I want students who are not going to do something recreational to have the skills to improve their lives.
Can you tell us about your initiative to provide students with heart rate monitors?
We purchased two sets of heart rate monitors as part of a grant– one for middle school and one for high school. Each student gets their own band for the monitor. The heart rate monitors eliminate the need to guess how hard a student is working. For example, you could have a student who is not athletic and has not done any fitness before, and they’re jogging slowly. That could be high-intensity exercise for them. In the same class, you could have a student, who has played soccer for ten years and is going double the speed of the first student, but they may not be working as hard as the first student. Now, rather than saying everyone has to run a 9-minute mile, we can look at a student’s baseline and say they need to improve on that baseline. The heart rate monitors tell us if the student is doing the level of work needed to improve their physical fitness.
Have you initiated any other programs or campaigns to improve student health and wellness across the campus?
We teach weekly nutrition classes as part of Physical Education. We have a couple grant proposals currently submitted to build and sustain a campus garden and orchard. I’m also in the planning phases of working with one of our Reading Enrichment teachers to try a new teaching strategy known as Action-Based Learning, in which students incorporate movement into their reading class to improve focus, enjoyment, retention, and comprehension. Beginning in August 2017, we will use the CrossFit Teens curriculum for our PE classes.
My efforts to establish a culture of wellness are not isolated. Ellen Winstead (Managing Director of Academics) and Katie Norwood (Director of Academic Support) have been huge supporters for what we do in PE. Ellen has been advocating for PE, so much so that she is helping us find ways to purchase heart monitors for each PE teacher across the district. I can only do what I do, because of the support and collaboration of the leadership of YES.
Can you tell us about some of your initiatives to improve health with staff members?
In February, our Physical Education and Athletics Departments began a healthy snack bar in which teachers can purchase healthier snack foods without leaving campus. This assists in creating a culture of wellness among staff as well as allows our PE and Athletics departments to reduce our financial burden on the campus and district budget. We are also waiting to hear back regarding our status as a CrossFit affiliate. If all goes according to plan, staff will be allowed to work out on campus using CrossFit training method free of cost. Several staff members already attend our PE class workouts (and games!) during their planning period a few times per week to reduce stress, get and stay healthy, and build transformative relationships with students outside of their classroom.