Durham Public Schools teacher Lara Brickhouse was named the 2017 National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators at their national convention in Boston on Friday, March 17.
Adapted physical education is modified to support students with disabilities. Brickhouse’s award was given in recognition of outstanding teaching performance at the elementary, middle and high school level in motivating youth to participate in a lifetime of physical activity.
Brickhouse works with nine DPS schools: Little River K-8 School; E.K. Powe, Hope Valley, Bethesda and Eno Valley elementary schools; Lucas and Lowe’s Grove middle schools; and Northern and Riverside high schools.
“More than 100 teachers and families rely on Ms. Brickhouse’s program to help put students on a path to leading a physically active life inside and outside of school,” said DPS Superintendent Bert L’Homme. “We are so proud to have such an innovative and dedicated teacher working with our students.”
Each day is an adventure for students in her class. One of her favorite things to do is teach students an activity or sport they have never attempted or even heard of. “My aim is to establish and maintain a learning environment that is positive, supportive, nurturing, inclusive, and above all else, fun!” says Brickhouse.
She spends a lot of time devoted to understanding how each student communicates his/her wants and needs and how each student learns. “Adapted PE is so much more than basic skill-building with modified equipment and IEP goals,” she said. “It’s a way of life. It’s a way for students to develop social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills needed to lead healthy, safe, and successful lives across all settings. Students are praised for mini-victories, and classroom teachers and parents are encouraged to celebrate these victories to help build students’ confidence.”
To help offset program costs, Brickhouse constantly seeks grant support and has been awarded 11 related to APE. The funds have assisted in purchasing equipment, implementing recreation and leisure programs, community-based opportunities, and more.
“What stands out about Lara is her dedication,” says Katheryne Rhys Myrick Potts, a behavioral consultant and colleague. “She spent countless hours researching and observing APE programs to create a service-based program that led to hiring three full-time APE teachers. Because of Lara, students with disabilities have been taught aquatics and bicycle safety, and have been introduced to a variety of vocational skills.”
Brickhouse has been recognized as the NCAAHPERD-SM APE Teacher of the Year and is heavily involved in the organization as a convention presenter. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education and APE from East Carolina University.