Mrs. Stephanie Sabol graduated from Slippery Rock University with a B.S. in Education Certification for K-12 Health and Physical Education and with an Adapted Physical Activity Minor. She more recently went back to school at the California University of Pennsylvania and earned a Master’s degree in Exercise Science: Wellness & Fitness.
Early on in her education, she knew that she wanted to pursue her love of sports and physical education as a career.
“When I was in middle school, my soccer coach was also my health and physical education teacher. She made me love class and love soccer,” Mrs. Sabol explained. “I wanted to be a teacher because of her.”
“I love sports. They have been my world since I was a kid,” she said.
After finishing her education at Slippery Rock, she became a long-term substitute teacher in schools throughout the South Hills of Pittsburgh for a year. In 2016, she joined the PA Distance family as a Health & Wellness Teacher for high school students. She later transitioned from teaching high school to teaching health & physical education classes for 1st, 2nd, and 6th graders at PA Distance.
“I enjoy teaching the younger kids,” she said. “My students love getting on camera to show me, and the rest of the class, an exercise.”
In her teaching room, Mrs. Sabol starts each 45-minute class by letting her students know what they are going to do that day and what to expect for the entire week. The first half of each class focuses on content related to health concepts and, sometimes, how it relates to physical activity.
Mrs. Sabol’s 1st and 2nd graders learn about the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, emergency situations, growth and development, the body’s respiratory system, skeletal system, muscular system, dental health, hygiene, spatial awareness, and fundamental movement skills. Her 6th graders learn about the Presidential Youth Fitness program, basic movements, endocrine system and circulatory system, components of health, drugs, alcohol, nutrition, and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
“I start my class by asking my students questions before I teach and discuss content to get their brains thinking,” she explained. “Then, we exercise together in the last 15-20 minutes.”
Before they start at PA Distance, each of her students receive the equipment needed for their classes. 1st and 2nd grade get a hop-along-ball, poly spots a jump rope and a yoga mat. In 6th grade, they get resistance bands, a stability ball, and a stair stepper.
“I think it’s so cool that the kids get the equipment. And they get to keep everything that we send them,” she said. “We try to add new exercises and equipment every year,” she added.
“The camera in my teaching room is great because it moves, as needed, using a remote,” Mrs. Sabol explained. “When I teach the students a new exercise, I can show them how to do it myself from different angles.”
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m an at-home video workout instructor,” she said with a laugh.
Mrs. Sabol’s students, and the rest of the Health & Wellness students, keep a fitness log. Using the log, they document exercise that they get outside of class with the goal of 180 minutes each week. To accommodate this, students might mimic some of the exercises taught in class on their own time or another kind of activity that they would enjoy doing.
Mrs. Sabol also connects her physical education classes with other aspects of life. For example, February was American Heart Month, and to raise awareness about heart health, she asked her students to share how they “get their heart pumping” using exercise. Each response is on a heart displayed on a wall in her teaching room.
Back in December, the Health & Wellness Department organized “12 Days of Fitness” for PA Distance students. Each day, students are challenged to do a particular set of exercises. Days 1-12 built off of each other, so by the last day, the students were asked to do the activities from days 1-11.
“The 12 Days of Fitness activity this year was very successful,” she said. “We had over 100 kids, and even some parents participate, which was cool to see.”
For March, the Health & Wellness Teachers began their annual March Madness Fitness Challenge. To get everyone moving, the Health & Wellness department has challenged PA Distance K-12 students and staff members to submit photos or videos of themselves performing an exercise (each worth 1 point each). The student, grade level, and staff member with the most points at the end of March will receive a prize!
Mrs. Sabol updates the students on the progress for each grade. Each week, she sends them a picture of the wall that shows the scores of each grade level, and teachers who are participating, to motivate each student to get up and get active.
By creating a friendly competition, the students are motivating each other to move and be physically active outside of their Health & Wellness classes, she explained.
Mrs. Sabol explained that PA Distance Health & Wellness classes are essential because they teach the students how to exercise and live a healthy life for those who don’t have access to a gym or who aren’t members of a team sport.
“We give them different bodyweight exercises that they can do by themselves or by using the equipment we send them,” she said.
“I love to see my student’s success and see them getting better,” Mrs. Sabol explained, “It’s crazy to see from the beginning to the end of the school year how many kids in my classes become better at push-ups or other exercises.”