Jim Keyes, physical education teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Pierre, has earned the title of 2019-2020 Society for Health & Physical Educators (SHAPE) S.D. Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
Keyes received this recognition at the annual SHAPE SD conference held in Brookings, Oct. 25. Among other items, Keyes received a banner announcing this honor and $200 scholarship, according to Bill Kaiser, principal at Jefferson Elementary. Keyes has been in education for 26 years — 14 years in Flandreau, and the last 12 years in Pierre.
“Keyes goes above and beyond his physical education classes, by opening up the gym at 7:30 a.m. so students can come in and practice cup stacking prior to him teaching his cup stacking unit,” said Kaiser. “Students can jump rope prior to Jump Rope for Heart, dance prior to his dancing units. These are just a few of the things that Jim does which makes his physical education classes so unique.” Kaiser nominated Keyes as a candidate for the honor.
When were you made award that you had been nominated, and had won the award? “About three weeks ago via email,” said Keyes “Then followed up by a call from Nikki Heinz, chair of SHAPE SD. I have been attending this convention since 1995. This convention, until three years ago, it was called SDAHPERD (South Dakota Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance). When I received the notification, I was at first very surprised and humbled. I have looked up to teachers who have received this award, and now I was being recognized for that same award.”
Why do you feel you won the award? “I am not different than any other educator who is doing their job. I (we) have a huge passion for teaching kids. My superintendent, Kelly Glodt, tells us every year that you must have two things to be an effective teacher: you must love kids, and you must have the desire to continually improve. I also feel it is a must to go above and beyond what we as teachers are asked to do. I spend time coming up with new ways I can make my P.E. classes better. Many people would tell you that I am kind of crazy when it comes to being prepared; that is just who I am.”
Why do you teach physical education? ”Probably the biggest reason is that I get to see the kids learn something for the first time and watch them improve on that skill for the next five years. Watching a kid find success is so powerful and so rewarding to me. That is what fuels me. Probably the toughest thing I must do everyday is give the kids the best “me” I can give them. I have 19 different classes that I teach twice a week and it is important that I give them my best, so I can get their best from them. At the end of some days it can become very exhausting, but I always tell myself that the kids need me.”
Why did you go into elementary P.E.? “My first 14 years I was a high school and middle school teacher at Flandreau Public. I loved teaching at those two levels and had no desire to ever teach elementary P.E. Back in 2008, I had the opportunity to take a job in Pierre as an elementary P.E. teacher. I was a little unsure at first, but I wanted to come to Pierre since I grew up in this community. I wanted my children to experience the great schools that Pierre had to offer. Kevin Mutchelknaus at the time was the principal at Jefferson Elementary and he took a chance on me. I was also interested in a change, so getting the chance to teach at the elementary level was an exciting opportunity for me.”
Why did you leave Flandreau, and why did you come to Pierre? “The main reason I left there for Pierre was to give my kids a chance to live in a bigger town and have the opportunities to experience more extra-curricular activities. Also, having my family here was also a plus — my parents as well as my brother and his family live in Pierre.”
What would you say to elementary students about physical education? “My advice to elementary students is to understand that P.E. is for everyone – not just the ones who excel in physical education. If we want students to like P.E., then we have to treat everyone the same. The students here at Jefferson know that my biggest pet peeve is when a kid makes fun of another kid. That is stressed early on to the kids at the kindergarten age. I believe that is one of the biggest problems that our nation has is kids bullying other kids. A lot of kids who don’t like P.E. is because they had a bad experience back in their elementary years. It is my job here at Jefferson Elementary is to provide these 400+ kids a great P.E. experience and that is what I try to do.”
What would you say to adults? ”My advice to parents is to be a great role model for your kids. Give your kids an opportunity to try new things. Just give some time with your kids and have them show you the skills they have learned in class — skipping, hopping, galloping, jumping rope, hula hooping, throwing a ball, kicking a ball, just to name a few. I believe many people in this community do a very good job of this.”
Anything else you would like to add? “I thank my principal Bill Kaiser for recognizing the things I do for the kids at our school. I also thank my Jefferson Family that supports me everyday that I go to school. Also to Heather Deboer and Todd Bohls, who also teach elementary P.E. in Pierre, who have made me better. I feel that I am just doing what I am supposed to do — even though I tend to go the extra mile because my kids at Jefferson Elementary deserve it.”