Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Customer Profile - Betty Kern: Physical Education Teacher

Fitness Finders® Customer Profile: 

Betty Kern, MS, CSCS

Ohio Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year, 2017

"I teach Physical Education to 4th - 6th graders at 
Schrop Intermediate School in the Springfield Local School District 
just south of Akron, Ohio." 

What's Been a Highlight of Your Teaching Career?

"A highlight of my teaching career came just recently after being awarded the Ohio Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.  My school had a surprise assembly for me.  They decorated the gym with running shoes that the students had colored and written messages on.  In addition, our custodian made me a larger than life running woman for the gym.  Every student in the school also wrote me a letter...all 570 of them!  These letters are so touching and demonstrated to me that the students learn and absorb so much more than I'd ever imagined.  At the assembly, 28 students read aloud their letters to me in front of the whole school.  It was an amazing, moving moment and one that I will never forget!"

What's Your Favorite Teaching Tip?

"My favorite teaching tip is to remember that what you are teaching your students today could be brand new to them!  It might be the first time they have ever experienced that topic, skill, activity, etc.  Remember how hard it is to learn something new.  Teach it to them as if they have never seen it before.  Be patient and be willing to slow down and make sure everyone understands. The extra time will pay huge dividends!"

How Do You Use Fitness Finders® Products?

"Fitness Finders® Awards are used in our Running Clubs throughout the year.  Students earn a Sneaker for every 50 points they earn and every 5 miles they run during a running club season.  Each week students look forward to receiving their awards! Many students ask to run extra laps to earn extra points so ultimately they can earn extra Sneaker Awards!

The 1st, 2nd, & 3rd charms are also used for grade awards at the club races. 
Fitness Finders® Awards are also used at our "all school" races held during the school day.  If a student improves his/her mile time, then an award is given.  For example, Turkey Awards are used for the Turkey Trot, Snowflake Awards for the Winter Fun Run, etc.  One child last year said that was the first award he'd ever earned in school! He was so excited!  

Fitness Finders® Walker Awards are used in Morning Walking Club when students reach various mile levels.  

Lastly, we use the EZ Scan® App for our walking club and for our upcoming Mile Tracker Challenge."

Fitness Finders® appreciates Betty Kern's support and commitment to excellence.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Running Beyond Their Challenges

Spencer and Eli Pardee are adopted brothers from Guatemala, currently living in a small Michigan town.  Spencer, now 13, and Eli, 11, were each adopted at 8 months of age. Both boys have overcome substantial physical challenges. Their mother, Dr. Terri Pardee, credits Mileage Club®, combined with a quality physical education program, with a good deal of their success.

Dr. Pardee (Terri), a Professor of Psychology at Spring Arbor University, is particularly interested in Childhood Development including high functioning autism, effects of trauma on children, and physiological psychology. Terri explains that the brain stem of a child develops from the bottom up. When progressive physical activity is not available to children, their brain stem doesn’t develop in typical fashion, often resulting in a delay of gross motor skills. Stunted brain stem development also affects the brain’s cognitive and emotional development. Adopted children often experience physical and psychological delays due to this lack of brain stem development. Constantly swaddling babies, which is a common practice in third world countries because of environmental health concerns, can also limit opportunities to strengthen core muscles.  

Spencer and Eli both experienced gross motor skill delays. Terri recognized the importance of early intervention and enrolled the boys in the Jackson County ISD Lyle A. Torrant Center’s Early Childhood Program where they received Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy. These provided the boys with a great assessment of their abilities and challenges, as well as a foundation for improvement.

Spencer struggled with weak core muscles. As a first grader, he was unable to lie on his back and roll to his stomach. He also dealt with twisted tibias, which resulted in him being extremely pigeon toed. Spencer wore leg braces as a young child and often tripped when he walked.

When Spencer entered 1st grade, he met Physical Education teacher, Debbie Drake. Debbie taught Physical Education at Jackson Christian Elementary School for 17 years ending in 2016. She has also worked at Fitness Finders, Inc. since 1977, and helped develop and write the Mileage Club® program alongside company founders, Dr. Charles and Beth Kuntzleman.

Terri remembers telling Debbie, “My son has pretty significant gross motor delays. Spencer may not be able to run. He’s not being lazy, he just not physically able to.”

Unfazed, Debbie responded, “We can work with him.”

Terri noticed Spencer began growing stronger. Motor control was a challenge for him, but suddenly he was improving. Five years later, Spencer was running comfortably as a 5th grader due in part to Mileage Club®. He earned awards in his Physical Education class for push-ups (which require strong core muscles), and he ultimately reached the top 10 in his 5th grade class for physical fitness testing.

The Pardees offered Spencer a variety of opportunities to be active. They enrolled him as a young child in baseball and soccer, but he struggled with organized sports. Spencer has a reserved personality, and the sensory overload that accompanied many such activities made it difficult for him to master the physical skills necessary.

However, Mileage Club® was a perfect fit for Spencer. Mileage Club® gave Spencer a framework in which to practice running, while encouraging him to improve his performance and meet goals – all while having fun!

“The kids had a ball with Mileage Club®.” Terri told us in our interview.

Now a middle schooler, Spencer has joined his school’s Cross Country team and is thoroughly enjoying the experience. At his first cross country meet, Terri felt nervous and asked Spencer if he was sure he could run that far. Spencer breezily replied, “Oh, yeah. We ran that far at lunch every day for Mileage Club®.”

Spencer’s younger brother Eli experienced similar physical challenges. In addition, Eli is currently prescribed some medications that can affect fitness levels and may cause weight gain. Terri is delighted that Eli has expressed the same enjoyment of running and Mileage Club® as his brother. Eli has completed two 5K races, and is proud of his accomplishments in each.

Terri expresses gratitude for her sons’ early exposure to Mileage Club®, and the interest and joy in running that it helped cultivate in them. As the boys enter adolescence, running seems to help them manage their emotions.

“Running has made the boys physically healthier, provided them an outlet for stress, and has taught them fitness skills that they will be able to use throughout their entire lives.” – Terri Pardee

Friday, October 6, 2017

Build Community with School Fun Runs

Have you considered organizing a Fun Run for your school? These events build community spirit, enhance physical activity, and can even serve as school fundraisers.
Fun Runs are completely customizable to fit the needs of each school. You may choose to limit participation to only students. Or you may choose to have students, parents, and school faculty lace up their running shoes together. You can let participants walk, run, jog, or grapevine during Fun Runs – you’re limited only by imagination! Fun Runs can be themed, competitive 5k events, or shorter, more collaborative Mile Runs.
Webster Central School District in Webster, NY has been hosting an annual Fun Run for over 50 years. According to, the annual Webster Fun Run has become tradition, as well as a rite of passage, for the students of their community.
Kevin Sayers, physical education teacher at Plank Road North Elementary, has coordinated the event for the past decade. The mile run kick-starts the academic year by bringing 700 students together. “The idea is to encourage children to be active, how to be a competitor and spectator, and to encourage good sportsmanship, empathy, and camaraderie among students,” Sayers said.
According to (Part of the USA Today network),  “The annual (Webster Fun Run, in Webster, NY), in its 52nd year, is as much a tradition among Webster Central School District students as it is a rite of passage.  
Another veteran of Fun Runs, Stacey Brickman from West Bloomfield Hills, MI has organized several elementary and middle school Fun Run events. “A successful fun run accomplishes all the things a PTO tries to create all year. It builds school spirit, increases participation, raises school pride, and is a fabulous, fun whole-school event,” Stacey said. “We would have a fun run even if it didn’t raise money because it is a blast.”

How can you get started with school Fun Runs? Fitness Finders® offers a Challenge Series® program that provides easy to implement fun-run templates and awards.

The Challenge Series® is a youth running or walking program combined with imaginative monthly events and accompanying awards. The Series may be conducted as often as once a month, for nine months, just once a year or any number in between. The monthly challenges may be held during physical education classes, after school, at recess, as an active assembly, at a club/recreation setting, as a community Fun Run or part of an established community-wide run. The challenges permit young people to participate in a one-half to one mile run/walk or, on occasion, longer distances.

With the Challenge Series®, participation and completion are the focus and are rewarded. Everyone is a winner! Upon completing the specified distance, each young person receives a special award for the event. For example, a pumpkin is awarded for an October Pumpkin Run or a shamrock is provided for a March Shamrock Shuffle.

The Challenge Series is a powerful, event-driven activity that encourages young people to set a goal of walking/running a specified distance. But how could a Challenge Series® Fun Run serve as a school fundraiser?

We recommend organizing a Challenge Series® event monthly, with the September/October Fun Run functioning as a kick-off fundraiser, and the final Challenge Series® event in May as an End-of-the-Year fundraiser. Both of these Fun Runs could be opened to the public, and we recommend charging a moderate registration fee. Make sure you advertise these events as fundraisers, and if possible, specify your intended use for the money to generate excitement. Make it a fun, whole-school, community-wide affair!

You can also raise money by having people pledge dollar amounts per lap (or steps or miles), or you can have your Fun Run be part of a larger, carnival-type event that has a variety of onsite fundraising games and goodies to purchase. You are in charge, so your Fun Run can be anything you need it to be. But all Fun Runs are great at promoting physical activity and creating community spirit.

We would love to answer any questions you might have regarding Challenge Series® fun-runs and pricing. Please don’t hesitate to call 800-789-9255 or email for more information. Fitness Finders, Inc. is committed to Shaping America's Future® by providing effective motivational programs and awards designed to develop the body, mind and character of youth. We strive to provide practical and innovative solutions for physical educators, teachers and youth leaders.