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The energy is palpable.
Inside Cindy Meyer’s P.E. class at Goshen Elementary, 50 students throw, catch and climb in a finely orchestrated chaos. Some toss rings onto a post, others throw a football or sling a ball from a jai alai-like scoop. In one corner, students videotape themselves throwing, then study the videotape to assess their throwing motion. All the while, the bass of “The Cha-Cha Slide” and other peppy pop songs float into the crowd.
Every once in a while a bell rings, and the class stops what they’re doing and applauds. Someone has reached the top of the climbing wall.
Meyer stays constantly on the move, keeping chaos to the minimum that could be expected when 50 students are throwing and catching.
“She has them well under control, that’s for sure,” said Locust Grove P.E. teacher Laura Munson. “When she tells them to stop, they stop.”
Meyer was a student teacher under Munson at Camden Station Elementary. She said Meyer has become an excellent teacher since then.
“She teaches me things and I’ve been teaching 21 years,” Munson said.
Munson has such respect for Meyer that as a former winner she nominated Meyer for elementary teacher of the year honors from the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
Meyer won the award.
Munson said Meyer comes up with cool ideas for keeping students interested, and making sure all students gain a love of exercise.
In her throwing unit class, Meyer encourages those convinced of their major league abilities to find something to improve. She helps foster confidence in those who aren’t convinced of much athletic ability at all.
At one station, students bounce a red four-square ball with a bean bag frog perched on top. When the ball bounces, the frog leaps off in unpredictable directions as students try to catch it.
Like the frog, Meyer seems ever ready to spring into action.
Slim and springy, it’s clear from the looks of her that Meyer has a history as a competitive athlete. Pole vaulting is her sport, having competed for the University of Louisville. She currently coaches Bellarmine University’s pole vaulters.
She’s always been competitive and athletic, so games like dodge ball appealed to her in P.E. classes as a child.
“I was that child that loved it,” she said.
Now as a teacher, she realizes dodge ball and its ilk are fun for the strong, athletic kids, but for the weaker or unathletic kids, it’s just a game where they’re pelted with a ball and have to sit on the sidelines the rest of the game — not exactly breeding a love of exercise.
Instead, she often breaks her classes into groups by ability — allowing for everyone to be challenged — or she designs games that incorporate everyone.
“She’s very thoughtful in her planning,” Goshen principal Candace Sellars said.
She plans activities that encourage everyone to keep moving, and she lays out those plans in understandable detail — modeling the action, and giving written and sometimes graphic instructions, Sellars said.
Mostly, Meyers just wants everyone to enjoy physical activity and to improve in fitness.
“If they don’t have fun in my class, they’ll hate physical activity their whole life,” she said.
Much of success in that comes down to approach. Even though dance isn’t her forte, she teaches it like everything else — with enthusiasm. Students come away knowing dance moves to “The Electric Slide” and “Cotton Eye Joe.”
“Even the guys love it,” she said.
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