Since starting at PA Distance six years ago, Mr. Tony Reda has been teaching elementary and middle school Health & Wellness courses. Now for a change of pace, Mr. Reda will be teaching health concepts and physical education to 8th-grade and 9-12th grade high school students.
"At PA Distance, we focus on the health & wellness curriculum and the physical aspect," Mr. Reda said.
"The 8th-graders will learn about a variety of health topics and concepts while focusing on their overall physical well-being," Mr. Reda explained. "My high school students will be exploring how different types of exercise can impact their overall health and the importance of an active lifestyle.
In middle school, Mr. Reda had a physical education teacher who doubled as his football coach and motivated him to pursue a career in health and physical education. As someone who enjoys being active and engaged in physical activity to promote his health, Mr. Reda naturally gravitated towards a career to teach those practices to others.
"I thought it would be a good way to use something I had an interest in and inspire others to be active," he said. "I love being around people, and I love influencing others to do something beneficial to their health."
To realize his career goal, Mr. Reda attended Slippery Rock University for his Bachelor of Education degree and PA Certification in K-12 health & physical education. Soon after graduating, he began long-term substitute teaching for Central Valley School District in Monaca, PA, where he also currently serves as a varsity football coach. To pursue a full-time teaching position in Health & Wellness, Mr. Reda applied at PA Distance and where he has been teaching for the last six years.
"The first question I got when I started at PA Distance was 'how'?" Mr. Reda explained. He said that after learning he was teaching physical education classes at a cyber school, his friends and family had difficulty understanding how he teaches physical education classes.
"I tell people who question a virtual physical education by saying we have found innovative ways to do it," Mr. Reda said. "We bring physical education to them, wherever they are, and give them the building blocks to use for the rest of their life."
Before the school year begins, students are sent the required equipment for each of their physical education classes. Depending on their grade level, they could receive poly spots, stair steppers, stability balls, yoga mats, jump ropes, hula hoops, and resistance bands. When they graduate from PA Distance the equipment is theirs to keep.
"Our school does a great job of providing our students with some basic exercise equipment to enhance their learning experience," Mr. Reda explained. "A new item the students should be receiving this year is a speed jump rope that I am excited to use."
At PA Distance, the health and the physical education lessons are combined into one class. Half of each live-learning class teaches students new and unique ways to exercise in their own homes. The other half is to teach students topics like food and nutrition, weight management and exercise, mental health issues, safety, and first aid tips - depending on the grade level. As a public school, PA Distance follows all of the Pennsylvania curriculum standards for each grade level.
Each Health & Wellness teacher does things differently depending on their personal preference and what works best for them. Mr. Reda likes to begin his 45-minute class with a light warm-up exercise to get his students moving and aware. Mr. Reda demonstrates exercises to his students, on camera, and virtually works alongside them to watch, learn, and mimic what they see.
To show off the techniques that they learned in class, students will get on camera or create a Flipgrid for their teachers to watch. Sometimes, the Health & Wellness teachers even let the students lead a class exercise themselves. They get on camera and show the rest of their classmates how to perform an exercise using their supplied equipment.
Mr. Reda's lessons vary from day-to-day, and he tries to incorporate different equipment each time, noting that some exercises are not one-size-fits-all. "I find ways to modify exercises to accommodate all of my students," he said.
"I think it's pretty cool that we can bring physical education to them, their living rooms, their bedrooms, their office, etc.," he explained. "I enjoy giving students a way to apply what they learn."
Mr. Reda and the other PA Distance Health & Wellness teachers are excited to use the new building's teaching rooms. The rooms are complete with a large TV screen, wide-angle lens camera, and padded flooring that will enhance their classes' physical education. All of these features will allow Mr. Reda and the rest of the Health & Wellness team members to bring their virtual classrooms to life.
"I am excited to teach some new and different grade levels for this year. Throughout my PA Distance career, I have taught a variety of grade levels. I am excited to continue to work with middle school students and now with high school students."