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What makes a great teacher?
Great teachers not only work hard to ensure the academic success and leadership skills of their students, they also help students develop healthy habits for life.
That’s why we at Salud America! are excited to spotlight some teachers who have gone above and beyond for the well-being of their students!
Ana Suffle: School Garden Maven
El Paso, Texas, shares its border with Mexico.
This creates an interesting cultural dynamic where some students cross the border daily from Mexico to go to Bowie High School in El Paso.
Ana Suffle, a 15-year teacher at Bowie, said many students eat cheap, addictive fast food instead of traditional Hispanic dishes filled with fresh veggies, spices and tons of flavor, according to a Salud Hero story by Salud America!, a Latino childhood obesity prevention network based at UT Health San Antonio.
“The kids don’t know about nopales, they’ve seen them they’ve heard about them, but they don’t really know what they are,” Suffle said.
A school garden might help, Suffle and other school and local leaders thought.
They wanted a garden that could teach students how to farm and grow plants like their ancestors, how to prepare healthy traditional Latino favorites, and how to learn business skills by selling their produce at their own market.
After working hard to generate support, funds, and a water supply, the El Jardin, La Cocina y El Mercado school garden at Bowie.
Suffle was hired as the full-time garden coordinator.
“It’s going to be the child that’s going to reteach the parents to eat healthy, because the student is learning here at the school,” Suffle said. “That’s what makes the garden so important. It’s a teaching tool.”
Linda Joseph: Swim Safety Hero
Linda Joseph, a teacher of special-needs students in Broward County, Fla. (27.5% Latino), lost both of her parents in a drowning accident when she was 16. She became fearful of water.
But she was encouraged to learn to swim at age 38.
“That boosted my confidence. There was nothing I couldn’t do after I learned how to swim, and it freed me of a lot of other fears, I realized,” Joseph said. “And that set me on my way to help others with that same fear.”
She wanted to help her special-needs students to be safe in the water.
So Joseph went to a nearby pool and asked how to get her students lessons. She was told to work with SWIM Central, which provides low- or no-cost swim safety classes for local children and students. Water safety boosts confidence and opens doors to many water-based physical activities associated with mental and physical benefits.
Joseph followed SWIM Central’s directions and got support from parents and school leaders, and soon her special-needs sixth-graders were getting free water safety lessons.
“Physical activity is connected with our health,” Joseph said. “Exercise is the reason we are sickly or well. Wellness isn’t just physical, it is also mental.”
John Adams and Adrian Flores: A Curriculum for Health
A few years ago, P.E. teachers like John Adams and Adrian Flores and other leaders in the El Paso public school district found out that less than 20% of school campuses offered before- and after-school physical activity programming. Fewer than 40% of elementary students got weekly or monthly health education.
Most teachers want to teach health lessons, they found, but don’t have much time given the time they spend on subjects like math and reading.
Adams and others wanted to build a true coordinated school health curriculum—with health embedded in all types of in-class lessons and after-school activities.
Their curriculum, called the Get Health Initiative Program Now, includes 12 three-week-long modules with a health goal, classroom-based activities, home-based activities and resources to help teachers prepare lessons that incorporate help into weekly lessons in P.E., math, science, language arts and social studies:
- Total health
- Balanced diet
- Food choices
- Wise decisions
- Family and friends
- Violence and injury
- Sun Safety
- Staying Well
- Physical activity
- Safety at home and school
- Personal hygiene
- Basic nutritional needs
Now all teachers embed health lessons, no matter what they teach. Lessons are also reiterated by food service workers, nurses, counselors, and administrators.
“The nice thing is the physical education teachers can tailor it to their campus,” Flores said. “It’s very flexible.”
By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.