Barranca P.E. teacher goes extra mile

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The gym doors at Barranca Mesa Elementary School are open to the students much earlier than those of the regular classrooms.
To solve the school’s problem of the early student drop off — many parents have to be at work by 8 a.m. and bring their kids to school before campus is open — physical education teacher Lynne Higdon invites early birds to shoot hoops, jump rope, and just run around while being supervised.
It also allows their classroom teachers to get ready for the day and set up their classrooms.
At Barranca Mesa Elementary School, where Higdon has taught P.E. for the last nine years, more and more kids are choosing healthy lifestyles thanks to her efforts.
She is the driving force behind the school’s efforts to promote daily physical fitness among students and staff.
“Prior to Lynne being here, the school’s P.E. program was focused on athleticism,” said Kay Swadener, a Barranca Mesa second grade teacher who works with Higdon on a school-wide committee focused on positive behavior and student health.
“Lynne concentrates on what the kids need. It’s not just a fitness program, she teaches not only certain PE skills, but good sportsmanship, helping each child to progress at their own rate and ability. Her Double Dutch Club is giving to our students who don’t even have the physical prowess for, an opportunity to succeed and feel good about themselves.”
Higdon promotes her love of sports in families as well. Just recently she organized a Family Activity Night, where parents and students participated in various activities.
Several stations in the gym (hula hoops, jump ropes, relays) were set up where whole families exercised and had a lot of fun at the same time. It is things like Higdon’s before-school open gym, family fitness nights, and her favorite, Double Dutch club, that have gotten current and former parents and students of Barranca talking, and referring to her as their favorite PE teacher of all time.
Higdon has stayed physically active all her life.
“My parents were always active, playing outside with us,” she said. “My two sisters and I were involved in different sports, as we were growing up.”
In high school, Higdon played basketball and swam. She also played basketball at University of California-San Diego, a Division III school.
Higdon’s goal is to help students and school staff to become active as well.
She leads by example, running three times a week after school hours. Promoting fitness among staff members, she sends out emails inviting anyone who is interested to join her.
Almost daily, several teachers team up with Higdon in such activities as running, walking, Insanity (high impact cardio class), and yoga.
Walk into Higdon’s PE class and one finds an exuberant atmosphere: the latest hit music is played on speakers while students take part in warm-up activities such as jump rope, hula hoops, or just dancing.
“Being a leader is doing more than your share,” she said. “I like to live by that.”
Here’s a look at some of the initiatives Higdon has either introduced or done in collaboration with other teachers:
• Dance/movement classes for students in all grades.
• Purchasing and maintaining playground equipment for the school all year.
• Helping with planning and running the Bobcat bonanza, one of the biggest school’s PTO fundraisers.
• Walking/running club for grades four through six.
• Overseeing school’s Recycling Program.