By Ryan Pike
Managing Editor for Writing and Reporting
Everyone wants to be the best at what they do, and Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School teacher Rebecca Peter has become just that. She was recognized as the 2013 New York State Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year in the Central North Zone of New York State by the Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (APHERD). “I was both humbled and proud for the physical education profession and the J-D community,” Ms. Peter said.
Ms. Peter was awarded this prestigious honor as a result of a nomination made by J-D Athletic Director John Goodson. Mr. Goodson is the Onondaga High School League American League representative for the NYS APHERD. This was the first time Mr. Goodson put in a nomination for a J-D physical education teacher. “When we talk about the type of person we want representing the [school], she’s the model,” Mr. Goodson said.
Ms. Peter is the model for a reason; she excels in all aspects of teaching, including literacy, skill development, strategy, applied science and technology. After all, that’s why she earned this award. “She’s a true professional,” Mr. Goodson said.
Ms. Peter’s use of technology inside and outside of the classroom has been perhaps her strongest attribute. In class, students use iPhones and iPads to record one another exercising and playing games. Additionally, Ms. Peter belongs to an online-based community called “PE Geeks.” It’s based out of the UK and allows physical education teachers from all over the globe to network and share ideas. “It started out as physical education teachers who wanted to integrate technology into their lessons, unit plans and activities,” Ms. Peter explained; “From there, it has grown into a powerful movement using social media as the platform.” PE Geeks has a strong presence on Twitter and Google+.
New-fangled technology and ideas aren’t the only things in Ms. Peter’s educational toolbox. According to Mr. Goodson, she also does a tremendous job of making kids of all backgrounds and ability levels feel comfortable in her classroom. “She views herself as a physical educator, not a gym teacher,” said Mr. Goodson; “To me, right away that tells you something about her mindset and approach to teaching. She believes in the bottom of her heart that she can change the world through education.” “I'm passionate about what I teach and believe that movement, exercise, collaboration and problem solving all have a huge impact on a person’s life,” Ms. Peter confirmed; “Physical education is another ‘piece of the puzzle’ in a child's development.”
Ms. Peter is also a three-season coach at J-DHS. She serves as an assistant coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer team, and she is the head coach of the Girls JV Basketball team and Girls JV Lacrosse team. However, Ms. Peter says her approach to teaching doesn’t blend too much with her approach to coaching. “There is a big difference between what I do as a physical education teacher and what I do as a coach,” she explained; “However, I would say the largest correlations are with grouping, progression of skill development, and the ability to break down a technical or tactical skill that will translate in the game.” Hayley Nies, the head coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer team, praised Ms. Peter as an innovative coach who really helps bring the team together. “Ms. Peter has the ability to bring out the best in her student-athletes,” Mrs. Nies said; “the girls soccer team loves her.” Soccer captains Maggie Austin and Caroline Kopp both confirmed that Ms. Peter is a great coach. “I like Ms. Peter because she’s a lot of fun to be around, but she also knows when to be serious,” Austin said; “she gives out a lot of criticism, so you have to take it, but you know she just wants you to improve.” “She’s funny,” Kopp added; “She brings a lot of good times to the team.”
The prestigious award and praise from her colleagues will not create any complacency in J-DMS’s best physical education teacher; rather, Ms. Peter plans to build on this success and continue to grow as an educator. Armed with an unrelenting passion for her career, the sky’s the limit for her future. “To grow as a person, you must be willing to reflect on your past experience and learn from them,” she said; “Through collaboration with my fellow co-workers, and people from all over the world, I feel a sense of pride and believe that there is a standard to uphold.” Mr. Goodson expects nothing less than constant improvement. “She’s always growing,” he said; “She knows what it takes to try to implement something new and also influence the people around her.”