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2003 PFA All Star Teacher
Pam Liewer

Pam Liewer

Effingham Elementary School, Effingham, KS
Lancaster Elementary School, Lancaster, KS
Cummings Elementary School, Cummings, KS

Did somebody say "Hat Trick?" Pam sure can! She has PFA in all three schools she rotates teaching. Her first grant with PFA was in 2003. Over the course of five years she has been able to demonstrate her outstanding teaching capabilities with this program, which in turn brought additional PFA grants to the other schools where she teaches. It has been life changing for her to have all the schools with the same program and this has allowed her to take her work with the kids to the next level. She may be in her 23rd year of teaching, but her work is fresh and the kids love it. We find Pam getting her kids from sedentary, to motivated, to goal setting at a very young age. She is giving them a love of fitness and activity that will be with them for life. When it comes to fitness, too much of a thing is never enough...which is why we are so pleased to showcase Pam and her "Hat Trick" of PFA schools!

Pam Liewer's Lesson Plans, Activities, Curriculum & Teaching Philosophy

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All Star Update

2010 Update

Pam Liewer, All Star Teacher 2007

Wow, where do I begin? I guess the best place to start would be to explain my situation for my first 24 years of teaching. I began teaching Elementary Physical Education in 1985 in northeast Kansas in a very small rural school district. This would be the first year that the students would get to have PE every day for 30 minutes. At that time, child obesity wasn’t in full swing, but I remember thinking that it was a great idea to get to see the kids every day. But seeing these kids every day was in three schools that were approximately 15 miles apart. So in my daily schedule, I spent a total of about an hour and a half driving to and from work every day, and between schools. Although, the driving between schools seemed like a waste of time, I tried not to let become that. It was great quiet time to prepare mentally for my next building full of children. Then, in about 2001, I got an urge to start writing grants. The idea of getting “free stuff” just for writing some stuff looked appealing to me. The first attempt was applying for a Carol M. White PEP grant. So our team of PE teachers in our district all got on board with me, prepared our data and low and behold…….we won! This really excited me but was much work, which is the pay off for getting that “free stuff”. That never hurt anyone though. So my ego took off and I was ready for the next challenge. Since I was already in the data collection mode, it really became quite easy to pull all that data back up to take on the next grant challenge. Later on that year, my Principal handed me a letter from Project Fit America. As she handed it to me, she said, “I really think this would be a great addition to one of our schools.” “One of them” was the kicker. Which one? There were three. So I had to sit down and evaluate outdoor facilities, confer with administration, and without really knowing exactly what the PFA program was totally all about, pick a school. After much consulting with my Principal and the wonderful gals from Project Fit America, the grant application was submitted. After finding about that we were awarded the grant, I was once again very excited. The community support was unbelievable with installing the outdoor equipment and when Mr. Steve Cox came to Lancaster for the initial in-service training, I was completely impressed. One can tell after working with Steve that his passion for children has gone above and beyond that of the average PE teacher. And I guess that is why I went after the Project Fit America program for my schools. The students in my gym are the most important part of my job. Well, without them, we wouldn’t have jobs.

A year later, my Principal handed me another packet of information that was from Project Fit America. I thought it was something other than another grant application packet. I guess when I initially chose Lancaster to write the first grant for, that this would be the only time our school district would be eligible for the PFA grant and program. So I called the Project Fit America office and explained my feelings and at that moment was given the “go ahead” to write another grant for the next school. So I did and we got it again! This time, I was very much more familiar with how everything works. Installation was even easier, but with a whole new group of volunteers and parents. I can easily say that getting the outdoor fitness equipment into the ground really brings you closer to many of the patrons and parents. But the feeling of being able to provide an awesome fitness and Physical Education program addition to another school was incredible! I knew the kids in the school would adapt so well to the new program.

Well, it didn’t stop with that. The third time, my Principal just put the application in my mailbox at school. I’m sure she knew exactly what this was all about and knew I would jump at the chance to get the program going at my third school. She was right and I applied, finding out that later that summer, me and another group of parent volunteers would be installing the third set of outdoor fitness equipment and now ALL of my students would have access to this wonderful program! I don’t know if Steve Cox ever got tired of driving down to Northeast Kansas from Des Moines, Iowa, but I do know that I was thoroughly trained and retrained on everything PFA has to offer! We have become very good friends, even going fishing together after my last training session! I’m not sure if it was more fun catching a few fish or watching the water snake swim over to see us fishing. By the way, I’m NOT a fan of snakes!

Let me jump ahead now to the 2007-2008 school year. It started out as usual and continued this way until I was notified that I was going to be awarded the Project Fit America All Star Teacher award. And this was only the beginning. Things were going my way all year. Towards the end of the school year, my Principal and staff presented me the USD 377 Teacher of the Year award. A couple weeks later, I was awarded the Atchison Rotary Educator of the Year Award. So be patient, hard work does eventually pay off!

Now on to the 2008-2009 school year……..After all the recognitions the previous semester, and the numerous photos that were taken, I didn’t see myself as a healthy Physical Educator. Coming from a family of “not so fit” parents, I’ve always known I’d have weight challenges, but I didn’t realize it until I looked at some of those pictures. I wasn’t obese, just needed to drop a few or 30 pounds to send a message to all of my colleagues and friends that I was going to be a fit Physical Educator. Plus, as chairperson of our Wellness Committee and the director of our new Staff Wellness program, I felt I could be a good role model for everyone. So when school began, I began my cardio and weight program. Every day after school, I would go to our District’s Fitness Room and do a hard 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weights. I also changed what and how I ate and by the spring of 2009, I had dropped 37 pounds! Staff members would ask me what motivated me to exercise every day and my response was that I wanted to outlive my mother’s age. Early that spring, I would turn 50 years old and my mother passed away at the young age of 55 due to colon cancer. I not only was going to outlive her age, but I was going to do it well and healthy. But that enthusiasm was cut short on April 9, 2009. Upon getting ready for bed that night, I found a lump in my breast. I told myself right then that I wasn’t going to get too worried over something I didn’t know anything about quite yet. In the morning I would tell my husband and go from there. So I went to bed, slept well, and then broke the news to my husband. He gets pretty excited about stuff like this and told me to call the doctor right away. I did and later that day, I saw the doctor and he ordered some tests. But since it was a Friday and of all weekends, it was Easter weekend, I couldn’t have any tests until Monday. I still had a pretty good attitude about the whole thing, not because I was thinking that there was no way I would have breast cancer, but just a good attitude because that’s the way I am. I had a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and then on to a biopsy on that day. Radiologist said it would be a few days and my doctor would call me. It was. On Thursday, April 16th, exactly a week after the discovery, I found out I had cancer. Ok……..ok again……now what? Now I felt it was my job to calm my husband down. I remember driving home after receiving the diagnosis that I called my daughter, now 21, to tell her what I had found out. I said, “I have cancer.” I guess I said it with such a positive voice that she replied, “No you don’t”. I had to convince her that I did have breast cancer, but that was my first move to make sure my kids knew that I was handling it positively. And hopefully, this would rub off on my husband. And my students. Wow, the message I could send to them. I didn’t tell them right away since I knew I was going to miss some school and they would ask me where I was once I returned. This was also towards the end of the school year. I had my initial surgery removing the cancer and once that had been taken care of, the Doctor told me I needed to lay off the last month of the school year. Then I decided the kids needed an explanation. I told them, gave them time to ask any questions they might have, and then received a million hugs. I occasionally stopped by school to visit during the last month and to check on my substitute teacher, and the students could see for themselves that things would be alright. When I arrived at school in the fall for the new school year, I was completely without hair and was used to wearing my colored bandanas with a baseball cap every day. On the first day of school, our Principal introduced all the teachers and left me for last. When he introduced me, ALL of the kids stood up, clapped and screamed in joy that I was there. Many of them asked me why I was showing any hair and I simply told them that the medicine the Doctor was giving me to fight my cancer also made my hair fall out. Many of the kids already knew about this because they have a loved one that it has already happened to. And hopefully, the kids that haven’t had an experience with cancer, would someday remember when Mrs. Liewer had cancer, and she’s doing alright, that they can handle it if faced with it.

Anyway, back to school……last year, due to a money crunch with state financing, our district was faced with local consolidation. Our Board of Education contemplated closing two of the three elementary schools and moving all those students to our existing 5th-8th grade facility. The 7th and 8th graders in this building would then be moved up to the existing high school and that would become the new Junior/Senior High School. Well, just before the end of the school year, the BOE did decide to do this. My job just became much easier because now, I no longer had to drive between three buildings that were 20 minutes apart every day. I would now have a huge full sized gymnasium to teach kids in and a co-teacher for all of our classes. My co-teacher has had some PFA experience because of things I have already taught him. So this was a golden opportunity for me to thoroughly teach another Physical Education teacher all the “ins and outs” of the PFA program. The PFA outdoor fitness centers were moved to Effingham, one to the new Intermediate Facility, and the other to the Jr./Sr. High School. No matter which building our students are in Effingham, Kansas, they can work out on the equipment! The year ended a month ago, and was quite well pleased with all the changes. Cancer treatment ended, which I was very, very pleased with. Ongoing reconstruction still happening, and a positive prognosis! If I have one thing to say I learned from everything that has happened in my career and life the past 8 or so years is, no matter how scary something is, close your eyes, jump in and just keep going with a strong faith, great friends, wonderful colleagues, awesome students, and the best family in the world! Keep positive, don’t quit and do it for all of the kids!

Liewer familyPam and
Pam and Jerry Liewer and family