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Interactive Teaching and Physical Inspiration Important in Virtual Gym Class

If prompted to recall memories from high school gym class, you’re likely to remember traits of teachers who shaped the way you think about exercise. Do you remember the gruff-voiced coach with bad knees who barked orders to jump higher, whistle dangling around their neck? Maybe you had the gentle-minded confidant who delighted in the excitement surrounding parachute day and kickball games.
 
Today’s graduates have added a different style to their recollections: the inspiring and active virtual gym teacher who connects through a screen with personalized instruction, helping keep fitness fun with games and breakout rooms.
 
PrepNet Virtual Academy Physical Education Teacher Celia Licht embodies this new instructor model, and her students are thriving because of it.
 
Licht started her journey with National Heritage Academies (NHA) as an instructor at Laurus Academy in Southfield, Mich. As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, she was forced to reinvent her instruction, like so many others. She started her own YouTube channel called Detroit PE and added an accompanying website called The Physical Education Teacher to provide content for how she wanted to teach physical education in the virtual world.

Students interacting virtually during PrepNet Virtual Academy online coursework at PrepNet Virtual Academy (PVA)

“I started making games that my K through 8 students would want to play,” Licht said. “A lot of it was all movement based but much of it was cross-curricular.”
 
Licht would pick the brains of her teacher friends for ideas. What were they teaching next month? What do their kids need help with? She created fraction and telling time games to help connect physical instruction with other classes.
 
Her success created an opportunity to stay virtual and teach for PrepNet while being NHA’s senior content lead for physical education.
 
To celebrate the last day of class with her students, Licht decided to jump in her pool which can be seen here.
 
“Literally every year, my life just progresses into something a little bit more exciting, to where I am right now and I'm thriving,” Licht said. “I love my job; I love what I'm doing, and I think each year I just get better. So, I can’t teach the sports, but I can teach the physical activity and I know why we're supposed to be doing the activity. I cannot say enough good things about PrepNet.”

PrepNet Virtual Academy student participating in online coursework at PrepNet Virtual Academy (PVA)
 
Licht thought working from home would give her more time during the day but found out how wrong she was.
 
“Honestly, it's the opposite. I work a billion times harder virtually than I did in person with lesson planning because I've got three monitors right now, and each one has a specific setup that I use to tab through. It's all a process. I need to make sure there's no dead air in our meeting. I have to make sure I'm prepared and organized that way. I have to be 100% present and give them my all. So, it's actually a lot more mentally demanding than physically demanding.”
 
Ensuring her students can navigate her virtual instruction is her priority, and that could mean reaching out to find her students as well. She’ll often need to locate students in different breakout rooms or email parents to see why their student hasn’t logged in.
 
“It's a lot of moving parts, which I didn't expect, but I've been figuring it out. It's becoming easier as the year goes on. Now, I'm super excited because I've got my whole summer to tweak my workflow and lesson plans. Then hopefully, it won't be as mentally draining next year.”
 
PrepNet Virtual Academy is a fully virtual tuition-free, public charter school located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 98 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.