Why You Should Participate in Your State Association … at Every Phase of Your HPE Career

State associations provide many opportunities for health and physical educators to develop professionally, as does SHAPE America, the national organization for the profession.

As part of For the Love of Health and Physical Education week, the SHAPE America Recruitment and Retention Task Force is highlighting why engagement in your state association and national organization is worth your time — regardless of your current level in the profession. Even college students — future professionals — can benefit from getting involved at the state and national level.

Being involved in my state association has given me many opportunities to learn and grow. As an undergraduate, I attended the Minnesota Society of Health and Physical Educators (MNSHAPE) conference and was able to add to my “teacher toolbox” by attending sessions geared toward my future profession.

After completing my undergraduate degree, my teaching took me overseas as an elementary physical educator, which I loved. However, since returning to the United States and transitioning into higher education, I now advocate to my own students about the importance of engaging with their state association and SHAPE America for their own current and future development.

My engagement in both MNSHAPE and SHAPE America continues to provide professional learning opportunities that I take back and present to the future health and physical educators I train. I have become more active in both areas, serving on the Board of Directors for MNSHAPE and the SHAPE America Professional Preparation Council and Recruitment and Retention Task Force. I have consistently found that the more I engage, the more I get back.

My story is only one perspective in the field, but below I’ve included stories from individuals with three different perspectives — future professional, current K-12 HPE teacher, and higher education faculty member.

Their personal insights highlight many of the reasons why you should engage in your state association as well as SHAPE America, and I think they would all agree that the more you put in, the more you get back.

Annika Culver

Annika Culver: My Perspective as a Future Professional

Annika Culver is a recent graduate of Winona State University in Minnesota.

I can honestly say that one of the best decisions I made at the beginning of my undergraduate program was participating in my state professional organization, MNSHAPE. I went to my first conference during my first semester as a freshman and felt at home. I was surrounded by people who understood me and why I was so excited to become a health and physical education teacher.

I decided I wanted to engage in a way that was more than just attending the yearly conference and in my sophomore year, I was elected to the MNSHAPE Board of Directors as the Future Professional Vice President. I have continued my involvement on the board ever since.

My active role as a MNSHAPE member and service on the board has benefited me immensely. Because of my membership and attendance at conferences, I have collected great resources over the years for my future teaching, ranging from lesson plans to activity ideas to learning how to create an inclusive environment for all students. I was also awarded scholarships through MNSHAPE that made it possible to attend the SHAPE America National Convention & Expo in 2019.

My biggest benefit from being a part of MNSHAPE is the connections I have made throughout the years. I have gathered so much advice (and wisdom) from current and former health and physical education professionals. They have supported me throughout my time as an undergrad, and I know they will be there to guide me through my first years of teaching when needed.

Nally Sahin

Nally Sahin: My Perspective as a Current Health and Physical Educator

Nally Sahin is a health education teacher for New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut.

From the moment I fell in love with health education, I knew that I had to get involved with organizations committed to improving the teaching and learning of the profession. I started primarily in teaching physical education. When I was asked to take on health education, I did not know what to expect. Although I was willing to teach health, I quickly realized that I was going to be on my own when it came to accessing resources and information to help me in my journey of improving the health education program in my district.

The best way to enhance my knowledge of health and develop a support system for myself was to reach out to professional organizations willing to offer up resources to improve my teaching. One of those organizations is the Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (CTAHPERD). I didn’t want to become a leader that complained all the time about how imperfect the health program in my district was. So, I decided to be a part of the solution. 

First, I cannot begin to explain how important it was to network and create fellowship with colleagues who were willing to share their knowledge, tips, and advice. Before long, I found myself volunteering my time at CTAHPERD and serving in other organizations that I felt would make the most impact in health education.

One of the most significant advantages of engaging in my state association has been having the opportunity to develop some of my soft skills from a leadership perspective. My communication, problem-solving, adaptability, critical thinking, and creativity skills have improved and pushed me to become a better leader in my field. Also, being involved has kept me engaged in health education with knowing and understanding the latest happenings in the profession.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of serving in my state association is that, along with making great connections, my motivation and confidence stay at a high enough level to keep me going for years to come.

Finding a way to serve in local, state and national organizations will help you achieve your vision while also providing support as you invest in your profession. As the expert leaders say, “The more you serve, the more productive you become.” I encourage all teachers and leaders to help make a difference and serve in the profession they are passionate about.

Clancy Seymour

Clancy Seymour: My Perspective as a Higher Education Faculty Member

Clancy Seymour is an associate professor in the teacher education and leadership department at Canisius College in New York.

SHAPE America and its state-affiliated associations play a crucial role in the promotion of quality K-12 health and physical education (HPE) programs. My experiences as a member of the New York Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (NYS AHPERD) have flourished over many years, culminating with my recent presidency in 2019-2021.

The opportunity to grow and serve as a leader of this outstanding organization has, and continues to be, among the most rewarding ventures of my career and has contributed significantly to my professional legacy.

Building a professional legacy takes time and requires careful thought. The path is unique for each of us, but one way to build a professional legacy is to encourage non-members to engage with their state associations. The value of a strong professional association is far greater than a yearly membership cost. In addition, the influence of a large and diverse membership advocating for quality K-12 health and physical education programs is priceless.

Hopefully non-members who ponder these perspectives may no longer ask, “What do I get for my membership?” but instead consider this question: “What can I give back to my profession?” Overall, my journey with SHAPE America and NYS AHPERD has inspired me immeasurably. A professional legacy is not etched in stone or published in books but instead accomplished by living a life of service, leadership, character, conviction, compassion, and integrity to your profession. We need all HPE professionals, including non-members, to recognize the value of SHAPE America and its state-affiliated associations. Being an HPE professional includes a duty to be part of the organizations that support your journey. I challenge all HPE professionals to look in the mirror and determine the path they will travel.

Additional Resources

Ben Schwamberger

Dr. Ben Schwamberger is an associate professor in the Department of Human Performance at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He is the program coordinator for the Health and Physical Education, and Physical Education and DAPE program. He currently serves on the SHAPE America Professional Preparation Council and Recruitment and Retention Task Force.