Getting fit, from the top down

Bayfield, Ignacio teachers compete in exercise challenge


First-grade teacher Deb Ireland works out at Ignacio Elementary School during an after-school fitness class. Teachers and staff members at the Ignacio and Bayfield school districts are competing in the Race to Spring Break. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

First-grade teacher Deb Ireland works out at Ignacio Elementary School during an after-school fitness class. Teachers and staff members at the Ignacio and Bayfield school districts are competing in the Race to Spring Break.

Across the country, parents, educators and legislators are focusing on getting kids moving. Now, administrators at the Ignacio and Bayfield school districts are trying to encourage teachers and staff members to experience the benefits of physical activity.

Dubbed the Race to Spring Break, the challenge pits the the districts against one another with the goal of being the first to exercise the equivalent of 4,000 miles – the distance to Hawaii.

Bayfield Superintendent Troy Zabel and Ignacio Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto hatched the fitness challenge idea with Robin Duffy-Wirth, the fitness manager at the SunUte Community Center and a former member of the Bayfield school board.

With tight budgets and ever-increasing demands on teachers, the fitness challenge was a way for the districts to engage in a staff-centered activity without spending more money.

“We want to focus on their having a healthy life and a good balance in life,” Zabel said. “It sends a message that we really value the staff.”

The activity is voluntary for teachers and is meant to provide extra motivation for those who may be looking for it, Duffy-Wirth said.

Teams of five within each district record their physical activity, which is converted into calories and then converted into miles. For every 100 calories burned, teams can log another 10 miles. Teams compete against each other and, bringing in the longtime rivalry between Bayfield and Ignacio, also compete against the other district. The losing district will have to display the winner’s trophy in its schools for a year.

Active teachers provide good role models for their students, Duffy-Wirth said. The thinking also goes that when teachers are healthy and happy, they will be better teachers.

“When they’re healthy, they’re in the best place,” Zabel said, “and when (school) is a good place for our staff, they make it a good place for our kids.”

Health and wellness also is a focus of both districts because healthy employees improve insurance rates, Zabel said.

Especially during the winter months, it’s easy for teachers to be sedentary, said Rocky Cundiff, a math teacher at Ignacio High School. The competition is a good excuse for people to keep track of how much time they put into being active, he said. Walking during the day even counts toward the total calories burned.

Zabel and Fuschetto are active participants in the challenge.

“I’m getting up earlier to fit it in,” Zabel said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

Chris Phillips, with the SunUte Community Center, leads a class with Ignacio school district teachers and staff members at Ignacio Elementary School. Teams of five within the Bayfield and Ignacio districts are recording their physical activity with the goal of exercising 4,000 miles. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Chris Phillips, with the SunUte Community Center, leads a class with Ignacio school district teachers and staff members at Ignacio Elementary School. Teams of five within the Bayfield and Ignacio districts are recording their physical activity with the goal of exercising 4,000 miles.