La Jolla’s Gillispie School puts a priority on P.E. lessons



By Jeanie Scott

Special to the Light

At a time when public schools are being forced to limit or cancel physical education classes, The Gillispie School stands firm in its commitment to the value of P.E. Every student, from the youngest early childhood student to those in sixth grade, attends structured P.E. classes at least weekly.

For the past 10 years, Ed Whelan has led the school’s physical education. With support from the $4.5 million dollar Gillispie Endowment for Excellence in Teaching, Whelan recently attended two important conferences: the California Association of Independent Schools Physical Education Teachers Workshop and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance National Conference. At both events, Whelan learned cutting-edge practices that he has incorporated into the Gillispie P.E. program.

Four years ago, Cheyenne Kibblewhite joined the P.E. department as an assistant teacher. With her extensive dance background, she has added dance both to the P.E. curriculum and to the after-school enrichment program.

Whelan and Kibblewhite often work with other Gillispie specialty teachers to create fun and educational experiences. Students were recently asked to play a soccer game while speaking only Spanish.

Technology is now integrated into P.E. through the use of a dedicated iPad2. This technology provides immediate video feedback on skill building, stores data and utilize apps such as heartrate monitoring.

Upper elementary students attend P.E. an average of three times a week. Classes often begin with a short anatomy lesson where students learn about muscles and bones. Anatomical terms become “go into action” words that are used throughout the class.

Physical education plays a critical role in educating the whole student, while developing motor skills, physical fitness, and understanding of concepts that foster lifelong healthy lifestyles.

Whelan said. P.E. programs also can promote social, cooperative, and problem solving competencies, he added.

“Physical education teachers are in a special position because the nature of play allows young participants to reveal their character,” Whelan said. “This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to teach and nurture values that last a lifetime in a safe physical and emotional environment based on respect, kindness, and cooperation.