Chris Adams' physical education classes at Steamboat Springs Middle School are far from traditional.
Instead of “squad lines,” dodgeball battles and synchronized calisthenics, the teacher more commonly coaches his students while they use digital pedometers, spring off of Bosu balls and break sweats playing motion capture video games on the Xbox 360 and Wii.
And the kids love their rigorous, hour-long workouts under Adams.
“It gets your heart going,” Steamboat Springs Middle School student Justin Peretz said Wednesday morning after he checked the digital pedometer on his hip that showed he was about halfway to his class's goal of moving 2,000 steps, or about a mile, in one hour.
A couple of jogging laps around the middle school's arcade brought him and his classmates closer to the milestone.
“He's fantastic,” Justin said about coach Adams, who has taught in the Steamboat Springs School District for 12 years. “He knows how to encourage us to stay active and fit.”
Adams was recognized last week in Littleton as Colorado's Middle School PE Teacher of the Year by the Colorado Association for Health Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
He'll have a chance to be recognized as a regional PE Teacher of the Year, and then the national one.
“I've very lucky just to have received the award but also to be surrounded by such a great group of teachers and a community that supports physical education,” Adams said in the middle school's fitness center Wednesday.
The teacher said his passion for physical education has been strong ever since he entered the profession 19 years ago as a middle school PE coach in Whidbey Island, Wash.
Today, Adam sees the value of his work when he sees high schoolers seeking out yoga classes or other individual sports here in Steamboat Springs long after they've left his classroom.
“I am empowered by teaching and helping kids,” he said. “From a philosophical standpoint, I approach it as engaging kids in movement and learning.”
And in Adams' classes, silence is rare.
After a constant span of panting, footsteps and verbal encouragement Wednesday, a quiet moment didn't come until 22 minutes into the lesson when students checked their pulses.
Then, Adams resumed his comfortable role of coaching and encouraging the kids.
“Over the last 10 years, there has been a shift in my teaching to more functional activities further away from team sports,” he said before class. “After age 24, only 2 percent of adults play team sports. They have value, but if only 2 percent of adults are doing that, we need to prepare these kids for a variety of things, particularly individual activities.”
His teaching also is reinforced by scientific studies that show physical education is an important piece of a student's academic career.
Adams said the workouts he oversees improve students' brain chemistry, focus and concentration.
They help them be better students.
Steamboat Middle School seventh-grader Taylor Olson agreed.
“It's one of my favorite classes,” Taylor said about Adams' PE class. “It helps me get through the rest of the day.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com