How Professional Associations Have Made Me a Better Health and Physical Education Teacher and Leader

When I began my teaching career in 2007, I was 22 years old. Four years of college had gone by faster than I could blink my eyes and then I was back in high school — now responsible for the education of students who were only four to seven years younger than me. Like the Eminem song, my palms were sweaty, my knees were weak, and my arms were heavy. I was scared out of my mind.

College did not give me the advice that I desperately needed, and it was quickly made apparent that I had to learn the hard way. In a school full of amazing people, I felt isolated. Teaching in the gym was far different from teaching in an ordinary classroom. I needed someone in my corner to support me professionally.

Young educators are often deterred from joining professional organizations because they can be viewed as expensive or a waste of time to someone who is already stretched thin, trying to put their best efforts into their classroom each day. When I started teaching, I had heard a little bit about the South Carolina Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (SCAHPERD), but at the time had no idea how this association would help me grow personally and professionally, transforming me into the educator I am today.

Benefits of State Affiliate Membership

As a young teacher, I decided to join SCAHPERD for the professional development opportunities. I was eager to learn from the best and brightest in the field of health and physical education. SCAHPERD offered professional development opportunities that I needed — much different from what my school offered. Each time I attended professional development sessions, I left with a new wealth of knowledge and resources I could take with me and implement into my own classroom the next day.

I was finally prioritizing my deep-rooted desire to grow as an educator. What I did not anticipate were the connections I would make not only in health and physical education, but with businesses, corporations and non-profit organizations. This gave me a forum to communicate with others in the profession.

My favorite part about attending conferences has been learning about all the free or low-cost resources that are available to help me implement up-to-date and engaging lessons in my classroom. Attending sessions that are relevant to my interests and needs as an educator provides me with the perfect opportunity to connect with the presenters.

Taking the time to ask questions, seek more information, and share interests during conferences facilitates networking and can deepen your knowledge of the field in a low-stress environment.

A few years after joining SCAHPERD, I finally mustered up the courage to submit a proposal to present at the annual conference. Now, when I present at SCAHPERD’s conference each year, it gives me the opportunity to actively participate in the advocacy and advancement of my profession.

One of my favorite parts of attending the SCAHPERD conference each year is attending the social events. Social events provide a relaxed and welcoming environment for networking. The friendly atmosphere allowed me to meet new people and it helped to expand my professional circle. This is ultimately what helped me step into a leadership role within SCAHPERD.

Taking It National

My experience with SCAHPERD fueled my fire and inspired me to join SHAPE America, the national organization for health and physical educators. I attended the SHAPE America National Convention & Expo in Nashville, Tampa and Seattle, networking and making connections with other educators from across the country.

Connecting with peers and educational leaders helps to improve the educational field. National organizations help to foster this connection and provide a platform for individuals from across the nation to share strategies, challenges, ideas and best practices while building relationships.

After each national convention, I would bring back information from the sessions and resources from the exhibitors to share with colleagues at the local and state level. This helped me to advocate for high-quality professional learning and increased collaboration time for health and physical educators in my school district.

Valuable Leadership Skills

If you told 22-year-old me that in the future I would be named South Carolina Health Educator of the Year … that I would take a leadership role on the SCAHPERD Board of Directors … and that I would serve as president of the South Carolina Association for the Advancement of Health Education, I would have laughed and quickly said “not a chance.” 

But in 2023, each of those things did come true for me.

The leadership skills that I have developed serving within SCAHPERD have reflected on my growth as a leader as both department chair at my school and as a district lead teacher. Renowned educator and author Robert John Meehan once said, “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” 

If you are that professional who is on the fence about joining your state or national association, I encourage you to take a chance. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Additional Resources

Rachel Fobare

Rachel Fobare has been a health education teacher at Lower Richland High School in Hopkins, SC, for the past 17 years and currently serves as the Physical Education Department chair, Professional Learning Communities leader, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) lead. One of her favorite aspects of her role as a lead teacher is being involved in planning professional development and providing resources to teachers.