Students at Read-Pattillo Elementary School love their physical education classes so much that they save their school rewards for months to earn a day as Assistant PE Coach!

“The kids get to spend the whole day with me,” said Dr. Letasha Robertson, one of two PE teachers at the elementary school in New Smyrna Beach. “They teach the class. I’ve even had a kindergartener teach 5th graders!”

Serving as Coach Robertson’s assistant is the top-tier prize in Read-Pattillo’s reward system. The opportunity costs $75 in CRIMP Cash, which is earned all school year by demonstrating Citizenship, Respect, Inclusiveness, Mindset and Perseverance. It’s so popular that the price is increasing next school year.

“They love PE so much,” said William Poniatowski, who retired this summer after more than 38 years with Volusia County Schools.

PE coaches do make physical education fun for students, and it’s easy to understand why children love playing games with their friends outdoors in the sunshine. But it’s also a serious subject, based on county, state and national curriculum standards.

VCS provides comprehensive instruction in health, physical education, social-emotional health, fitness and sportsmanship. Over the past 10 years, the curriculum has shifted to a greater emphasis on life-long wellness. There are units about swimming, sun safety, health and nutrition, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and lessons cover fundamentals such as jumping and landing, dance, throwing and catching, tumbling and motor skills.

“It’s a well-rounded program where everybody is active,” Coach Robertson said.

The physical education program has also grown to involve parents and the community more than ever. Read-Pattillo participates in the Kids Heart Challenge through the American Heart Association, and the school hosts “Bring Your Parent to PE Day” twice a year (though that program wasn’t offered this past year due to the pandemic).

Coach Poniatowski encourages families to take advantage of Central Florida’s gorgeous weather to stay active through recreational activities such as biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking and canoeing.

The pandemic inspired many families to slow down a bit and make more time for recreation and exercise, said Coach Robertson. She recommends families set aside time at least once a week to exercise together.

“When the parents are motivated, the kids are motivated also,” Coach Robertson said. “Children like to move, but they also need to know that we care about their health and wellness.”

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