The 2011 Champions of Health and Fitness
Pages in this Story:
- America's Doctor: Regina Benjamin, MD
- Compassionate Medicine: Roseanna Means, MD
- The Wheel Deal: Chris Carney
- Budding Genius: Donna Cavato
- Tough-Love Trainer: Jillian Michaels
- Healing Force: Kathryn Schmitz, PhD
- Class Act: John Skretta
- Action Heroine: Jessica Biel
- Social Networker: Chris Downie
- Food Revolutionary: Jamie Oliver
Class Act: John Skretta
By Bethany Gumper
Stop by any school in the Norris School District 160 in Firth, Nebraska, after lunch and you'll see students engaged in a unique lesson plan: Calorie-Blasting 101. Superintendent John Skretta initiated twice-a-day 10-minute activity sessions during which fitness DVDs stream to the school's closed-circuit TV station. Teachers turn on the tube and do jumping jacks, sit-ups, and planks with the kids.
Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools offer daily phys ed classes, according to a national study. That's why Skretta, a member of the Lincoln Ice Hockey Association and a runner with six marathons under his belt, was thrilled when a 2004 federal law required all schools to enact a student health and wellness policy by the start of the 2006 school year. He partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation to combat childhood obesity, and since then he has overhauled the district's phys ed programs and pushed teachers to rethink the way they do their jobs. "The traditional method of instruction -- lecturing for hours while kids sit and absorb information like sponges -- isn't healthy for students' minds or bodies," Skretta says. In addition to the daily breaks at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., each school period starts with a Jammin' Minute, in which synchronized dancing gets students' hearts pumping.
The staff has gotten in on the action too, by means of walking and running clubs, and the high school hosts a local walk/run for the community on the first Saturday of each month. "My goal is for parents and the community to view the school as a place where families can be active together," Skretta says. We say he deserves a gold star.
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