Award-winning Guilderland gym teacher’s work is all play
Updated 9 p.m.
GUILDERLAND Guilderland physical education teacher Colleen Mickle gets to a have a lot of fun at her job.
There aren’t too many professions where the day consists of teaching children sleigh-riding or running outside.
“It was something that I always wanted to do since I’ve been in sixth grade. I just love to play and I love kids, so I thought that was a good combination,” she said.
Mickle’s enthusiasm for her job earned her the award for Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year from the New York State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. She was recognized last month at a state conference in Oneida.
Mickle said she was excited and humble about her accomplishment. “It’s always a little embarrassing to receive an award like this when I’ve worked with so many wonderful people and have stolen their ideas. We’ve collaborated over the years. Only one person gets the recognition,” she said.
Mickle has been at Guilderland for 27 years. While physical education’s basic goal of getting children to move hasn’t changed, Mickle said there is more of an emphasis on fitness now. Students also are more knowledgeable about health issues.
Mickle said the most important part of the job is to develop good relationships with the students.
“The better I know them, the better I can help them to grow,” she said.
After that bond is established, students are more willing to try new things, according to Mickle. “They’re willing to experiment, take risks and commit to being physically active and come to the different activities after school and in the evening that we offer. They start to develop a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Mickle coaches cross country at the high school and is coordinator of the district-wide elementary ski club. She also coordinates a running club for fourth- and fifth-graders. She has coached track and field, volleyball and soccer.
She loves taking classes outside and introducing the students to new sports.
“The best is when they finally get a skill. Their face brightens up. They’re so excited. That’s the job,” she said.
The job also keeps her active. She likes bicycle riding, downhill and cross-country skiing and tennis.
Mickle has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from the State University of New York at Cortland and a master’s degree in elementary education from Sage Graduate School. She has been married to husband Tom for 27 years and has two children.
Regan Johnson, Guilderland’s director of physical education, health and athletics, praised Mickle for her caring and nurturing nature, creativity and great work ethic.
“I think she really strives to make a connection with kids. She really likes to stress the importance of being physically active — making it relevant to her students,” he said. “She’s the teacher that you would want your child to have.”
Johnson keeps busy serving on several committees for the district, including the wellness committee, district interview committee and physical education curriculum revision committee.
“She’s just an outstanding asset for our program and our school community,” Johnson said.