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Local elementary school helps its teachers get fit

POSTED: January 18, 2010 1:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Fitness instructor Dorian Shockey calls time during a workout Thursday after school at Friendship Elementary School in Buford.

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When teachers at Friendship Elementary School were summoned to a surprise staff meeting in the Buford school's gym, they were not sure what they might be getting themselves into.

They knew only that teachers were to arrive in casual attire.

Teachers entered the gym to find fitness coach Dorian Shockey ready to whip them into shape.

Friendship media specialist Tricia Barry had coordinated the event with Shockey and Principal Berry Walton.

"I thought it would be a great idea because I am fitness oriented, and it would be a great morale booster as well," Walton said. "It would also increase the health and productivity of our staff and you cannot go wrong with that."

A handful of teachers had already begun walking together after school, but by November the school was holding regular voluntary fitness classes.

"It was a 15-minute workout, but it felt like an hour," Barry said of the first staff workout with Shockey. "We were all sore the next day."

Teachers began meeting with Shockey twice a week after school in the gym to do cardio, weight-training and toning exercises.

Shockey formerly worked with Bally Total Fitness before starting PE Fitness, a physical education program for school faculty and staff. He said since only 3 percent of typical gym members go to the gym more than three times a month, he wanted to initiate a program that brought the gym to people.

Shockey also does the program at Chestatee High School and said he hopes to eventually create a similar program for students. But until then, he said he hopes to help teachers become healthier to benefit themselves and students.

"The best way to combat child obesity is to have teachers be healthier role models for kids," he said.

At first, only four Friendship teachers of the participating 45 could do a full sit-up, Shockey said.

But a few months later, the 45 teachers have collectively lost 330 pounds, Barry said. And nearly all 45 can do a sit-up.

A friendly "Biggest Loser" competition grew out of the workout sessions, pitting two teams of teachers against each other to see which team could lose the most weight during the fall semester. Third-grade teacher Beth McCarthy lost 27 pounds, and dropped more weight that semester than any other teacher, Barry said.

The competition is on to see who will be the spring semester winner.

Kindergarten paraprofessional Lisa Head said the competition helps the teachers keep going with their fitness goals. But Head said she's not above foiling the other team's efforts.

"I sent little treats to a person on the team against me - her weakness, caramel candies," she said.

Head said after a long day in the classroom, it is the camaraderie with other teachers that keeps many staff members pepped up for the workout.

"We laugh and cut up and make it fun," she said. "... I've lost 20 pounds and gone down two dress sizes."

She said the workout classes have been useful in motivating her students who are reluctant to exercise during their physical education classes.

"We tell our kids, ‘We have to go to exercise class, too. So they have to do their part, too,'" she said.

Friendship's P.E. teacher Andrea Champagne said Walton's support for the program has been a key to its success with teachers.

"It really helps our attitude. He gets in here and he works out hard," Champagne said. "When you're feeling good about how you look, you feel good about working."



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