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Madison Metropolitan School District

West High P.E. Teacher Teams Up With Pro Athletes to Keep Students Active

Connor Tobin

March 25, 2021 - 2:40

Most physical education teachers across the district will tell you that P.E. has been one of the most challenging subjects to teach online during the pandemic. With no gyms or fitness equipment at home and workout space limitations for many students, P.E. teachers like West High’s Mary Kok are constantly thinking of creative ways to keep students active at a time when mental and physical health are extremely critical for youth during a global pandemic. 

“Every week, I’ve been focusing on connecting my classroom to community partners who are dedicated to movement and life-long mental health and fitness,” said Mary. “Several local fitness and health experts have joined my students online to lead our kids in live or recorded workouts, martial arts presentations and other topics like nutrition and sports performance.”

When Mary reached out to Madison’s professional soccer team, Forward Madison FC, she was hoping the team could submit a recorded workout for her students to participate in. Instead, the team’s captain and community engagement liaison, Connor Tobin, responded to Mary with the idea to lead live workouts with the players via Zoom, in addition to engaging the students with a motivational talk about athletics, exercise and the correlation between fitness and mental health.

"We want to be a club that enhances the lives of people in this community,” explains Connor. “There’s no question that youth are one of the most important aspects of our community, and we’re always looking for unique ways to connect. Hopefully this will be the first step in an even deeper relationship with West High School and the Madison School District.”

Simi Fadiran, a senior at West, is a student athlete who plays soccer, runs track and enjoys ultimate frisbee. During the pandemic, Simi has enjoyed biking, playing both the piano and the cello to stay physically and mentally fit. He appreciates how his teacher, Mary Kok, invited professional athletes to class to offer advice on academics, life after high school and professional sports. 

"The live workout was my favorite part of the presentation,” said Simi. “And I liked the player’s perspective on how to balance academics with being an athlete. This was a good opportunity to ask an athlete about their professional journey and what it takes to play at that level.”

In the fall, Simi will enter the University of Wisconsin - Madison as a freshman majoring in microbiology. He’s most intrigued by a professional career in the medical field with plans to stay active while balancing his studies by playing club sports like soccer.

For the rest of the school year, Mary plans to continue focusing on community partnerships, bringing local sports and fitness experts into her P.E. class to help students with their social-emotional skills while promoting the joys of movement in their daily lives. 

- Marlita Bevenue, MMSD Communications: