Teacher of the Year Frank Hughes 2016

I have been an advocate for equal opportunity for all students since I began working with this student population in 2007. I learned very quickly that if students are not able to learn effectively and efficiently using my teaching methods, then I must adapt my methods to the way that they learn. As an advocate for equal opportunity, I have worked diligently to achieve community awareness of students with disabilities and to promote the appreciation of students’ abilities rather than their disabilities. When needed, I provide general education teachers with demonstrations and tips to facilitate inclusion in each and every school I attend. I focus on forming bonds and relationships among peers and strive to demonstrate that all students are capable of success, even if their success is achieved with assistance from others. It is my belief that if all students are afforded the opportunity and guidance to achieve, all students are capable of achievement.

An Adapted Physical Education teacher is not an educator who has a singular method or style of teaching, but rather, is one who possesses both the ability and the need to use several teaching styles and methods in a single lesson. I see the potential in each and every student that I have the privilege to teach. Whether I am working on monitoring and increasing a student’s heart rate, improving their visual focus, or enhancing their participation with peers in a general physical education class, it is my job to see the student’s potential and to work with him/her to achieve competency. Differentiation is my typical teaching style. When I plan a lesson, I prepare my class to work towards a common goal; however, the way in which each student chooses to achieve that goal may vary. When teaching a class of eight students, I must have the ability to teach a skill in eight different ways. Through my experience, I have learned that teaching to a small class of eight students could require verbal, visual, or physical cues, and possibly a combination of two or even all three types of cues depending on the individual and collective needs of the class. That same class of eight students may benefit from picture reinforcements, a task card to explain the sequence of activities, and/or a consistent routine in class. No matter what the students’ abilities may be, it is my responsibility to recognize the potential in the individual student as well as the class as a whole, and to ensure the achievement of both individual and group objectives.

My curriculum is based upon parent input and individual student needs. In Delaware at the present time, there is no established curriculum for Adapted Physical Education. It is my responsibility to learn from other programs, states, and APE teachers. I have taken the observations I have made and implemented a purposeful program for my students. The REACH program is a program for students with mild to severe physical, cognitive, and/or emotional disabilities. My program is designed to provide students with the knowledge and proficiency to accomplish the goals that are established and I am dedicated to enhancing my students’ success throughout the school year. I use data collection to determine strengths and weaknesses in my students and to assist with measuring student progress and achievement.

I presented at the PSAHPERD conference in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 2008. I co-presented along with several other individuals from West Chester University, and our presentation focused on teaching basic sign language for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Since 2008, I have not missed a single year as a presenter or an attendee at an AAHPERD conference. I have presented for both Pennsylvania and Delaware conferences, and I have presented at the NCPEID (the National Consortium for Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities). I have attended Special Olympics coaching clinics, inclusion conferences, and professional developments that focus on adaptations for students with disabilities. I have used my position as an Adapted Physical Education teacher in the Christina School District to become a mentor for several University of Delaware students. I have found that I learn best through experience and teaching, and it is my goal to continue to grow professionally through experience and through sharing and interacting with others.

The Delaware State Standards have provided helpful guidelines as I started the APE program for the REACH program. Prior to my arrival in the REACH program, several of the students had never been fully included in a physical education class. Therefore, several students did not have age appropriate motor skills or movement patterns necessary to perform a variety of physical activities. As a result, the students in the REACH program did not regularly participate in physical activity, exhibit responsible social behaviors during physical activity, nor did they have the opportunity to enjoy self-expression and social interaction in a physical activity setting. The REACH APE program assisted in developing students’ abilities to participate regularly in physical education and improved their physical fitness throughout the year. Students learned to interact appropriately with one another through games and developed motor skills which helped them, not only in the PE setting, but in their classroom settings and home environments as well. The Delaware Standards assisted me in creating goals for my students as I documented data on their performance throughout the school year.

I have been a presenter at the PSAHPERD conference in Pennsylvania and have presented on:

  • Basic sign language in PE
  • Sports modifications in APE
  • Activity modifications in APE
  • Equipment modifications for APE

I have presented at the DAHPERD conference in Delaware and have presented on:

  • Modifications and adaptations for students with disabilities
  • Inclusion in general physical education for students with disabilities
  • Equipment modifications for inclusion in PE

I have presented at the NCPEID convention and presented on:

  • Using Video-Based Modeling and Social Stories to Promote Learning During Adapted Physical Activity Practicum

I was the first Adapted Physical Education teacher for the REACH Program in the Christina School District. I started the APE Program in the beginning with minimal equipment and taught APE classes for roughly ten weeks with ten beach towels, forty bean bags, and two basketballs. During my first year with the REACH program, we had only 17 students participating in the Special Olympics of Delaware. By the end of my fourth year as the APE teacher, the REACH program had more than 70 students participating in the Special Olympics.<br /> With the help of Professor Iva Obrusnikova from the University of Delaware, I was able to organize a practicum program that provided university students with the experience of teaching adapted physical activity for three of our high schools, our vocational arts program, and one of our middle schools in Wilmington. This program started as a single class of university students and generated so much interest that a second class was opened. This gave our students the opportunity to attend two separate sessions at the University where they participated in both gym and aquatics.<br /> I initiated a Special Olympics fundraising committee which raised money and participated in the Lewis Polar Plunge every year. I also established the Field Day fundraising committee where staff in the REACH program participated in fundraising activities in order to help purchase necessities for the REACH Field Day.

Prior to my arrival, the students in the REACH program had never had a field day of their own, with modified activities suited to their individual abilities. In my first year as organizer of field day, I raised approximately $600 through community support and enlisted roughly 20 volunteers from the University of Delaware and West Chester University to help organize activity stations and to modify activities to fit students’ individual needs. By the end of my fourth year with the REACH program, I was able to fundraise more than $2500 for our field day and had more than 50 volunteers from both universities to volunteer for the event. Through four years with the REACH Program, we were able to gain community awareness, support, and donations from more than 15 different local businesses. Our students were given the opportunity to use several of those local businesses as job sites where our students could acquire life skills that would benefit them in community living after graduation.

Since 2008, I have volunteered every Memorial Day weekend at a sleep-away camp called Camp Abilities, which is located at West Chester University. Camp Abilities is a 4-day sports camp for youth ages 7-17 who are blind or have low vision. The purpose of the camp is to empower children to be physically active, to improve their overall health and wellness, and to develop confidence and self-esteem through sports and physical activity.

The field of Adapted Physical Education is the one in which I feel I have the ability to impact children’s lives for the better in so many ways. However, the impact that my students and my experience in the field have had on my own life, each and every day, is immeasurable.

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