Sports teachers can rally school spirit and make physical education fun, writes Kristie Kellahan.
They are the all-rounders of sports education - teachers who are required to possess the ball skills of professional athletes, the motivating powers of team coaches and the scientific knowledge of nutritionists.
In April, exemplary teachers received accolades at the Victorian School Sports Awards ceremony held at the MCG.
Donna Westie, from Westall Primary School, was honoured with an outstanding teacher contribution award (primary school category). Westie designed programs to develop and extend her students, mentored teachers to improve their own programs, and encouraged children to take part in sport.
"PE [physical education] teachers in schools educate students that sport is for life," Westie says. "Students who join sporting clubs generally continue to make sport a part of their adult life, too. Hopefully, they will learn a 'have a go' attitude and find a sport or two which invokes passion in themselves and a love of sport throughout their life."
As well as running an outstanding physical education program at Westall Primary School, Westie has co-ordinated School Sport Victoria's inter-school sport across districts and divisions for many years. She has coached volleyball and rugby league teams to state championships. Westie says her affiliation with Melbourne Storm and the NRL development program has been a highlight.
"I've coached school teams at AAMI Park at half-time during Melbourne Storm games and been involved in rugby league clinics with the Queensland and NSW State of Origin teams," she says.
"To sustain a love of teaching sport and motivate students, it is important to provide opportunities for all students to reach their potential in individual and/or team sports, whether it be at school level or the exceptionally talented who compete at state level."
Recognised for outstanding teacher contribution (secondary school category), Gerard Darcy has been a passionate sports advocate for almost three decades.
He has been the sports
co-ordinator at Melton Secondary College for 20 years, coaching numerous cricket, football, soccer, volleyball and tennis teams. He actively involves more than one-third of the school population in 65 inter-school sports teams.
"You name the sport and l have probably tried to teach, coach or play it," Darcy says. "A good PE/sport teacher must have a sound grasp of all sports. It enables you to have a more personal involvement with students when you are able to understand a wide variety of sports and talk to them about it."
He has been the Western Zone representative on the School Sport Victoria committee for 15 years, and manages seven schools within his division across all sports.