Like many teachers, physical education teacher Kendall Graves at Bilhartz Elementary School was missing his students during the COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-April, it had been more than a month since he had seen them, so he came up with a way to get everyone together virtually.
Coach Graves reached out to the families at Bilhartz and announced he would begin hosting Friday afternoon online workouts on Zoom, an online video conferencing service.
“I figured this would be a good way to see them, have a workout with them and do something fun,” Coach Graves said. “Anything to put a smile on their faces.”
His first workout on April 17 included 34 students. By the next week, the group had grown to 80 students and their families. Coach Graves’ goal is to reach the Zoom maximum of 100 participants.
Coach Graves begins the meetings by talking to his students about how they’ve been doing while staying at home. Then, they get going with their gym motto: “Love Ourselves, Be the Best I Can Be, and Learn As Much as I Can!”
Coach Graves leads his students through 10 different exercises and activities while playing high-energy, current music that the kids like. They sometimes play ‘Simon Says’ or do in-home scavenger hunts where they bring items to show and share with everyone.
Sophie Mireles, a fourth grader at Bilhartz, is one of Coach Graves’ students. Her mom says that opportunity for Sophie to see her teachers - even if it’s just online – is helpful.
“The teachers are really what’s keeping our kids from having too much anxiety,” Diana Mireles said. “I’ve never seen a Zoom class that packed. Coach Graves has pages and pages of kids who are in that class. Just hearing them laugh and enjoy it is reassuring.”
Sometimes Coach Graves gets a bonus in his weekly classes as parents and brothers and sisters stop by to say hello.
“Since I’ve been at Bilhartz for more than 10 years, I get to see some students who previously attended Bilhartz and have siblings that currently go to Bilhartz,” Coach Graves said. “I want them to know I miss them and still want to see them and how important being active is even if it is just once each week.”