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Ron Trainum does not teach from the sidelines.
During his physical education classes at Toano Middle School, he gets in on the action, demonstrating safe stretching with students one-on-one and grooving alongside them when they learn the moves to the “Just Dance” video game.
His emphasis on student-centered teaching, incorporating new technology and thinking toward the future has earned him the titles of Virginia Middle School Health and Phyiscal Education Teacher of the Year and the Southern District Middle School Health and Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
“I think [the awards] are more of a reflection of a school community that wants to find innovative ways of educating students, and that’s not just with physical education but with everything we do here,” Trainum said. “It’s more of an affirmation that what we do here is reaching kids and helping them become healthy adults.”
Trainum, a health and physical education teacher as well as a department curriculum leader, worked at Thomas Hunter Middle School in Mathews County for seven years before coming to Toano in the early 1990s.
He said his teachers in middle and high school inspired him to pursue a career in physical education. Those teachers, he said, are his models today as he teaches and develops instructional plans.
“I try to focus on quality lessons and innovative lessons,” Trainum said. “My ultimate goal, and our ultimate goal, is we try to provide enough experiences, or different experiences, so kids can grab onto activities they enjoy and go in deeper.”
Team sports was the trend when Trainum started teaching, he said. His emphasis today is on personal fitness and teaching students skills they will develop in the community, whether it’s learning how to in-line skate or use cardio equipment and weights.
Adam Otstot, coordinator of health, physical education and athletics for WJCC Schools, said Trainum’s breadth of knowledge on curriculum and best practices have impressed him the most.
“He’s just really an expert at what he does in all areas, from curriculum to instruction,” Otstot said. “If there are any questions about whether it’s a good practice or whether something could be tried in a class, if you ask Ron he’s either tried it or he has a pretty good idea of whether it will work or not.”
Otstot noted Trainum’s expertise incorporating technology in the classroom. For example, all students wear pedometers, which HPE teachers use to monitor their physical activity.
“He uses [technology] in a way that challenges students to set personal goals,” Otstot said. “It’s not just there. It’s really a tool for them to learn from, which is ideally what we want it to be.”
Chad Triolet, president of the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, chaired the committee that selected Trainum for the state award.
He said Trainum was chosen as the middle school teacher of the year award because he is “the finest example of a master teacher in physical education we have in our state.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or not,” Triolet said. “In his class, he cares about every child and wants every child to be successful and learn and be more physically literate.”
Trainum is one of six middle school physical education teachers in the running for the national award. The winner will be announced during a banquet April 8.