This fall, HSC was thrilled to learn that physical education teacher Lori Klein-Blazek was named Illinois Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD).
HSC first met Lori through Fit to Learn, a professional development program that helps teachers make health and wellness a regular part of the classroom experience. Lori, a Chicago Public Schools teacher for more than 27 years, has worked hard to inspire her young students to lead healthier, more active lives. At Jungman Elementary School in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, she’s been responsible for more than 19 heath and physical education programs. Plus she’s helped spark a new partnership with Children’s Memorial Hospital’s KIPP program, which prevents knee injuries amongst young female athletes.
She’s known for being highly invested in her school (where she teaches all grades) and in her individual students. She says: “What makes a good teacher? The kids have to know that you like them. I tell my kids all the time that they're awesome, they’re great and that I'm proud of them." She adds with a smile: "Even when I'm saying, ‘Stop, pick that hockey stick up!’”
She’s also a big believer in teachers stretching their creativity to the limit, making lessons more engaging and active. She recently recycled unwanted foam swimming pool “noodles” by slicing them into hockey pucks. “If you give me something, I can figure out something to do with it,” she says. “I have a million things I can do with popcorn buckets!”
When she first heard about Fit to Learn, she wasn’t sure if the activities would work in her school’s classrooms. But, she says, "All I can do is try. I talk about Fit to Learn to teachers all the time, and I do some of the activities in PE with the kids. It's good energy. The seminars are fun -- especially for someone like me. I can’t sit still. I’m like, show me, let's get up, let's get moving."
Recently we learned yet another way that she’s connected to HSC: Anayency Elizondo, Administrative Coordinator at HSC, is a former student! Seventeen years later, Anayency still remembers the tough encouragement that’s made Lori so important to her students.
“I’ve always been terrible at volleyball,” Anayency says. “I remember playing it, and she didn’t really care if you were terrible at it. She would just make you try it and feel good about trying. She encouraged us, however she could.”
With her signature creativity and energy, Lori Klein-Blazek continues to make learning healthy and fun for her students.
Congratulations, Lori, on your award -- we’re proud that you’re part of HSC’s family of incredible educators!