Steve Cox, All Star Teacher 1999
Since becoming a PFA grant recipient
teacher in 1996, my Phys Ed career has continued on an exciting
and positive personal and professional journey. The PFA Station
Equipment and PFA Philosophy caused me to experiment, dream and
create more fitness programming both for PE Class and my ‘Beyond Phys Ed’ program.
This original work was recognized by Project Fit America in 1999
when I became their first National All Star Teacher. The programs
I created include Station Stars, Team Fit, Pacer Challenge, Fitness
Cup Activities, Rope Jump Olympics, Tummy Toughy, Smile Runs, Weighted
Hoops, Wall Charts, Lub Dup’r Running Club, PFA Word Wall,
Huba Huba, Capture the Pins, Beat the Ball, Parent Recorder/Helpers,
Medicine Ball Lessons, Dumballs, TCC and Team Friendly/ Yellow Brick
From 1999-2003, the year I retired, my Physical Education back here
in Des Moines was getting cut more and more. I found my total
PE program was still evolving and growing with the help of PFA, my
wonderful wife Cyndee, a small group of super dedicated parents,
( thanks Jan, Mindy, Julie, Keith, Christine, Joan and many others)
great principals Jim Mitchell, Marilyn Wadden, and Barb Comito, Mercy
Hospital and thousands of ‘Wanting-to-Run-Jump-Sweat’ kids.
In 2003 I decided to take my retirement and begin to work for PFA
in earnest. During those last years of teaching my PE program
became even more Broad Based, Fitness Oriented and Fun (I could
truly address Strength Development so much more thoroughly now with
the marvelous ‘Above Ground Weight Room’ the Stations
created)! It was during this time all the programming I had created
with PFA became polished and refined to the point of PFA national
curriculum development. The PE program I had developed
received a nice array of Newspaper and TV PR coverage, accolades
and awards. These culminated with the ‘First PFA National
All Star Teacher Award’, a ‘Wal-mart Teacher of the Year
Award, and the marvelous surprise, a week before retiring, of having
an assembly where the school gymnasium was named after me.
An additional sidetrack during this time was the opportunity to travel
to California and meet/present ideas and activities to the PFA Board
and visionary founder Stacey Cook. I immediately found them to be
progressive and enthused. PFA challenged me and asked… “Do
you think other schools can run these types of programs you
have created and change the PE experience for their students?” I
knew immediately the answer was yes they could and would! I
was then given the opportunity to travel to PFA schools all over
the country and share “my brand” of programming.
“The other side of life for
this All Star Teacher”
I am not unlike most of you. We
are a spoke in a bigger wheel and that wheel most often is our
not do what I do, have become what I have become and have reached
out with all the time, energy, commitment and determination without
their love and support.
Here is my story.........
Wow…. Life just does keep coming at you.
I was 52 when I was recognized as the first PFA National All Star teacher.
I am 63 now. I retired after 33 years with the Des Moines School system, and
became an in-service trainer for PFA and evolved to the National In-Service
Director for this beloved program. I have truly enjoyed watching and helping
it grow and serve the much diminished ‘fitness
needs’ of American youth. My wonderful wife Cyndee and I celebrated
our 41st year of marriage this June. She retired after 34 years of
teaching ’Special Ed’ in the Des Moines Schools and said
she went into ‘Spec Ed’ to better deal with me…….
Funny girl! Our three sons are all grown and very busy with their
own lives and careers.
My Three Sons
David (Number one son-the oldest) is
a Veterinarian Major in the Army. He just finished a 4-year assignment
in Yokosuka, Japan and is now stationed and working in the DC Metro
area. Cyndee and I had the opportunity to visit him while stationed
there. His work overseas for the military sent us on travels we never
expected in our lives.
Traveling to Japan was a marvelous and moving experience. Japan was
clean and beautiful, with crowded cities and transportation that
was extremely efficient. The people were friendly and fit. Guess
what I found out…Yes, I like sushi!! My son’s ability
to speak Japanese (he took it in high school and college) made
the trip so much easier. Visiting Tokyo, we toured the Emperor’s
Palace, Mt Fuji, Gensa District, the Queen’s Woods and Ancient
Shrines. It was just fascinating.
A stand out moment in time for this history minor and buff like me,
was the day we spent going through the beautiful Hiroshima Peace
Park/Monument and standing at ‘Ground Zero'. It was beyond
moving. It was hours of ‘goose bumps’, tears, deep reflection
and exhilaration. My father is ninety one (91) years old and was
in the Navy in WW2. He served in England, France and told us he most
likely would have been shipped to the Pacific theater. History is
so real, raw and educational.
David married a Filipina nurse (Jennifer) in Angeles City, Philippines
last October. Cyndee and I flew through and around two typhoons
to attend. We landed in Manila and rode 3 hours south to Angeles.
Visiting the Philippines was also a moving experience. It is a
beautiful, bountiful and lush land. However, I found the infrastructure
of life, land management, development, city and government philosophy/implementation
and the basic amenities of modern living are sorely lacking.
It was a rude and powerful wakening for this “60 something
year old” growing up in the heartland of America’s similarly
lush, bountiful, beautiful Iowa. I can assure you that there is no
need for amusement park rides after you have ridden their crowded,
keystone-cops-like streets in a Jeepney or cycle side-car! We did
both and what a rush…. but I in all the time there…I
never saw an accident….go figure!
Busy, fit, impoverished people
living in highly competitive, crowded, poor sanitary conditions.
The obvious ‘organized’ business
with the employment of baby-face young children/beggars was simply
gut-wrenching. We gave them food but were instructed to never
give money as the children are being used for organized crime. Cyndee
and I stuck out like a sore thumb and were constantly approached. We
would always order extra food and make sure we had some to give to
Volcano Penatoba was always visible where ever we were. It was large,
lovely and calm hanging over the city during our stay. Mounds of
ash from its most recent eruption were still piled on many empty
lots and vacant corners. Their wedding was in a 150 year old Catholic
Church and new in-laws were handsome, friendly folks. Few could speak
English and I could not speak Tagalog. We all gestured and smiled
a lot. It was kind of like communicating with one of PFA Trainer’s,
Ken Chambless, from Newnan, Georgia! Inside joke….Ken is a
phenomenal trainer but never misses a chance to give this “PFA
Santa Claus” a
run for his money!!!
Besides the joyous wedding and
reception and this meeting our new in-laws……my lasting
memory of the Philippines will be the conflicting battle of beauty,
bounty, bustling life and stark poverty.
Hug your kids, take em’ for a bike ride, vote, pay your taxes
and thank God you live in this country! OK, off the soap box!
Spencer-(My number two son and middle child)
Spencer owns and runs, from the
ground floor up, a rather large vending business. He and his wife
Stephanie have given us four grandchildren. Logan 8 1/2, Kennedy
7, Tatum 4 and Harper 6 months. Talk about busy! I would always
crawl into their rooms as babies and softly chant/sing, “Boom
- Boom - Boom - Boom”. Thus I have been named “Grandpa
Now let me tell you ….. I can easily handle a class of 28
second graders on a Friday afternoon the day before Christmas Vacation….
But it is a real challenge for me to manage my four grandkids at
once! Thank goodness for Cyndee. Yes I can change a diaper but I
still periodically put them on backwards.
TJ ( My third and youngest son-32)
TJ has recently completed
his Masters Degree in Counseling. He has worked as a counselor
for ‘Wayward Teenage Boys’ in
a highly restricted environment. (Very educational and intense)
and been a counselor in Middle and High Schools. He recently took
a job as the High School Counselor in a small town about 50 miles
from Des Moines. TJ plays tennis and golf and fly fishes for hobbies
and is an assistant tennis pro in the summer. He is also the assistant
football coach. It should be a very interesting and exciting year
for our busy bachelor.
TJ’s beloved Iowa Hawkeyes are
expected to have another good football season and he and Spence go
to as many games as they can. Major Cox (no pun intended), oldest
brother David, graduated college and Vet school at arch-rival
Iowa State. Some good natured and heated debates explode from this
scenario. But they always take me to the opener….. FUN!
I have taken TJ, Spencer and even
Stephanie with me on several of my PFA in-services around the nation.
They were all great high school and college athletes and they are
very pro fitness and supporters of my work with PFA. Spence and
TJ have seen and helped enough with PFA in-services that they could
present one and have been recommended as substitute teachers for
PFA. As coaches and teachers and big supporters and can successfully
implement the PFA- TCC/ Team Friendly philosophy (Teamwork, Communication,
Cooperation) that is corner stone is all PFA activities! A few
times in the last decade, the boys and I have managed to get away
to the deep mountains of Montana/Idaho for our beloved fly fishing.
I always thought it was for fun, bonding and me to pay for most
of the refreshments but I was told a year ago that the main reason
they bring me is so they don’t have to outrun a Grizzly bear.
What loving young men they have become!
The Grandkids/How times
have changed/This PE Teacher’s take on it all
The grandkids are into all the activities that so many young, working
parents find necessary these days: School, pre-school, vacation bible
school, sports teams, dance, gymnastics, overnights, B-day parties
etc, etc. Most of it is highly organized and structured and it makes
me kinda glad I am not raising youngsters in this fast paced world
I long for the more unstructured, movement
education, free-play experiences for little ones. Sadly, time, open space
and truly safe play settings are not as readily available to today’s
youth as they were for my generation. I greatly lament this fact and am
painfully aware of the plethora of physical, social, mental and emotional
foundation and growth that this generation of kids never experience
because of their lack of exposure to blissful hours of free, safe,
creative, outdoor/indoor play. Wow, there I go back on that soap
Perhaps this is part of the reason God
makes grandparents and semi-retirement leisure time. This status
often allows Cyndee and I the time to create some of those experiences
with the rug rats. We: go fish, chase frogs, catch worms, paddle
boats, build bird houses (Logan and Kennedy each have their own saw-horse
in our back yard), build tree houses, skip rocks, make and shoot
bows and arrows, make and shoot sling-shots, walk in the woods, run
dogs, catch fire flies, play cards, paint outdoor furniture, build
and use their own bug nets, light sparklers, play guitar, tie fish
flies, wrap fishing rods, build snow forts, have snow ball fights,
rake leaves and jump in the piles, build snow men, make campfires
and cook smores, stack fitness cups, walk on stilts, swing on tire
swings, scoop dog poop, make monster soup with the mud and gunk,
garden, saw branches and clip bushes, count seconds between lightning
and thunder, sneak up on rabbits and deer, get out and look at road
kill, (Lots of questions there!), spot shooting stars, wrestle/tickle/dance,
look out for cop cars, play in the sandbox, play tennis-golf in back
yard, play homerun derby in back yard and learn to put on your own
band aids. Gee, Cyndee and I are just pooped sometimes.
Much, most of this play is rather spur-of-the-moment. Kennedy (7)
can easily take a group of peers and organize and lead (a little
bossy at times) some creative activity. Hhmm … so could her
dad as a youth. I just like to expose them to a very wide variety
of physical activity.
Walking the walk/talking the talk
I did put my foot down
and insisted that Spence and Stephanie get rid of the ‘electric
car’ Logan received as a gift
from someone. I just completely loathe seeing young, healthy, innocent,
moldable American youth sitting on their sooner-to-be-fat-butts,
burning no calories, driving a damn car at age 3. When I see that,
I jump right to, “How blind and ignorant can parents become?” No
wonder this generation of kids (youth 30 and under) is the first
not expected to out-live their parents. The Big 4 S’s, ‘Sugar,
Salt, Soda, Sedentary', bother me even more when they are
close to my ‘Home'. I bought Logan a little peddle
car to replace it. Logan, Kennedy and Tatum have all enjoyed hours
and hours of great free play pumping that little thing all around
our drive-way and sidewalk. Logan can parallel park it in reverse
in a small coned off area and can also reverse back it with a wagon
attached into a target spot. Kennedy…shall we say, can gleefully
knock over cones and objects with it. But, she and Tatum thoroughly
enjoy playing with it…..and they all have nice , strong
legs! I hope it holds for a couple more years so little
Miss Harper can starting scooting too! G-kids are surely a joy and
The 'Wind Beneath My Wings'-Cynthia Jean
Cynthia Jean and I celebrated our 41st wedding
anniversary this June. Her parents celebrated their 63rd and Spence and Steph
their 11th. We all go out during this special time to eat and have a great
time yacking and reminiscing. This was Cyndee's first year of retirement
after 34 years in Middle School Special education. Around January,
she started subbing off and on and very much enjoyed the 'pick-and-choose'
nature of being a sought-after substitute. Her calm, pleasant and
professional disposition combined with her 'Multi-categorical Special
Needs Skills', makes her a great fit for many teaching positions.
She even taught Phys Ed a couple of times.
For those that don't know, she is also a 44 year/ seven different
types of cancer survivor. She is and has always been a non-smoker.
She has had three skin cancers and four other major life threatening
types. Her daily life, diet, movement and energy are significantly
tied to the ramifications and medicines related to all. But to
a stranger, you would not know it.
There was time when she was not expected
to see our three sons graduate or be at the birth of Logan. But she
is a loving, laugh-a-lot, cheerful trooper. She always had and still
has a very strong faith and active personal acceptance and love of
God. She has, of course, been very active in cancer research movements,
causes, fundraising runs, etc., and has been a inspiration, confidant
and source of hope and healing for so many peers. And she married
and stays with me..... Go figure!
With her newly found increased time free at home, I have found the
'Honey Do List' to have grown considerably. Her love of gardening,
landscaping and cozy home keeps she and I plenty busy. The house
and yard are becoming quite quaint and very grandkid friendly. I
do have kind of a man-cave-pit room in the basement for macho fishing/hunting
building kinda stuff. However, she keeps looking at it periodically
with a 'What can I do with this room look'! It scares me a little.
We do a lot with her parents ( Doc and Lois) and Spence, Steph and
the kids. Even traveled with that whole crew, in a 32 foot RV out
through Colorado, Idaho and Montana. What an experience ….........
AIN'T gonna do that again!
Going to the dogs!
Two dogs are still with us. Floozie and Harley. Cyndee and I put
down our beloved Toby (yellow lab) last Fall. We were with him at
the end and it was one of the toughest things we have ever done.
I become more of an old softie as I age. The boys kid me about it
a lot now.
Floozie (Gordon Setter) is rather a guy-dog
and is very take-it-or-leave-it cat-like toward Cyndee. Cyndee looks
at Floozie much of the time with the same 'glue-factory' look she
reserves for my man-cave . Floozie is fortunately too stupid to recognize
it. I am very attached to poor old Floozie. The name???? She is all
black with a little bit of brown.... kind of an anti-blonde. Thus
the name Floozie. Harley is a bundle of energy/joy Cavaschon, a Bischon/King
Charles Cavilier cross. He is very sweet and playful. When it is
rest time he'll be in Cyndee's lap or at her feet. He is in good
standing with Cyndee and is much brighter than Floozie and seems
to realize it. Our busy existence with work, family, friends, church,
play and home keeps rollin' on.
Where am I now?
Adulthood and older age, sports and ignorance has
blessed me with three knee surgeries, one elbow surgery, two broken ankles,
broken nose, two broken fingers, rotator cuff surgery and a bloody nose
or two. Yea, I'd do most all of it again. Gave up organized basketball
at age 50. Cried a little about it and got over it in a year or two.
Besides family and PFA, I spend of lot of fun time such as playing
guitar, writing a few songs and performing at different functions,
tie flies and build custom fishing rods and I present at seminars
and post tutorials periodically on rodbuilding.
I read educational, outdoor, fitness, philosophy and poetry books,
fly fish every chance I get and once I hit 60 started playing a lot
of tennis again. If you are tall and can still volley and move a
little, you become a valuable age group double's tennis player. I
have been lucky and fortunate enough to have been on eight different
state champion double's team these last three years. We have gone
to the mid-western regional in St Louis, Springfield and Oklahoma
City. Poor old Iowa teams get whipped most of the time but it burns
a few calories and older athletes usually display a wonderful combination
of healthy competition and friendly camaraderie.
It's truly a lot of fun......EXCEPT
when you have an arterial fibrillation, which I did, in Oklahoma
City in100 degree heat. After an overnight stay in the hospital,
a couple of fitness tests and a few green pills and I was ok to
play in one day. I still take the green pill once a day and have
been fine. I tell Cyndee the green pill is for something else and
she generally just tells me, “ That's nice dear”.
You just can't fool those 'Special Ed' teachers!
I teach tennis part time at the
beautiful 'Des Moines Golf & Country
Club'. I work mostly with the little rascals, kids 4-12 mostly. It
is lots of fun and helps keep me on my toes. I take the dogs out
for woods runs and I almost always take Floozie with me when I go
fishing. She sits in the boat and sleeps a lot. I build special homemade
'Fish Habitat Bushes' for many of the ponds I fish and I usually
make a custom fishing rod for the pond owners. I have some lovely,
great fishing, private farm ponds and good friends from this net
working and from some PFA In-Services too!
Fishing/Hunting and the Department of
I thoroughly enjoy pond fly fishing
from a boat for Bluegills and Bass. Bluegill from a clean pond
is an absolute delicacy. With Floozie sleeping in the boat, I show
her most of the fish I catch but she has been around Cyndee so
much that mostly all she does is glance up and say, “That's
nice dear." She is on her last legs and I have this dream of taking
her to South Dakota for one last pheasant hunting trip. Southern
Iowa, just a few short years ago, used to have phenomenal pheasant
hunting. Farming practices ……(I'm
going to catch some flack for this)….and our Department of
Natural Resources have REALLY dropped the ball on this. I hope they
get their heads out of the sand and seriously address it. Unfortunately,
it is not going to happen fast enough for Floozie and probably me......
so.....I hope we get to South Dakota this year.
Old, lovable Toby will certainly
be looking down rooting for 'Boom Boom and Floozie'. The boys and
I and a few old buddies from high school have networked for years
befriending and helping farmers in beautiful Southern Iowa. I have
farmer friends in places where I have been hunting since the early
60's.... wow, am I old! Although the quail and pheasants are basically
gone, the massive Whitetails are thriving. I usually take one a
year, drag it home, hang it in a shed in the back yard, take some
pictures, show it to the grandkids, spend a fortune to have it
processed and then Floozie, TJ and I eat it. Yes, I always show
it to Cyndee and of course she says, “ That's
nice dear.” For those of you who have grown old hunting with
a group of buddies for decades in below freezing weather, plodding
through snow, legs cramping, falling on your butt, scraping through
thorns and briars, telling lies and laughing your patooty off, you
know it's both ritual and family reunion.
For those of you who don't.....
(lots of thoughts flashing here). I better play it safe, so I'll
just say, “I hope you are really
enjoying what ever else you're doing and you ought to try some Iowa
I periodically volunteer and do some PE in-services for church preschools
around the city. The little rascals and the underpaid teachers are
always so grateful for help, guidance and equipment. Some even have
some federal or slush funds to pay me. I politely accept the money
and then immediately endorse it back over to them to purchase much
needed fitness equipment. I get kind of a warm, fussy feeling when
I do that. For the last decade I have volunteered at 6:00 in the
morning on most Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer at a children's
Horse Camp Ranch south of Des Moines. It is right in the heart of
the beautiful 'Bridges of Madison County' area and very close to
the birth place of the 'Duke' (John Wayne). Inner city and other
kids from all over Iowa and the mid-west are sponsored to go. There
is large pond and acres of wonderful hardwood Iowa timber. It is
truly a lovely place and a great experience for the kids. I help
teach kids to fish and I have been known to go there in the evenings
and fly fish a little myself. This summer, I have been teaching tennis
lessons in the morning most days and have not been able to go help
at the ranch much..... so I supply the night crawlers. Help where
The surprises in life
A couple of very nice surprise/awards
came my way this spring. I received the 'Central Iowa Tennis Associations
'Lifetime Achievement Award'. And a few weeks later I was informed
that I was going to be inducted into my high school’s -Lincoln
High- 'Alumni Hall of Fame'. My body of work in education, 'Beyond
Phys Ed Programming, coaching and youth development was highlighted.
I have picked up a few nice awards and accolades along my career
but being recognized/inducted by Lincoln High…with some
other very prominent, outstanding heavy hitters… was very
humbling, shocking and gratifying. I was and still am quite moved
I had written a song for my 20th High School Reunion years ago and
had little need to do it since that time. I brought it back out and
played it for folks at the ceremony. It was quite a hit I was told
and I am now supposed to work it up and put it on 'YouTube'. I'm
still somewhat of a dinosaur with computers and digital gadgets and
I stumble through little by little with the help of my sons and small
children. Heck, I've been on 'FaceLift' for 6 months and I don't
look any better yet!
But I am going to try to throw my 'Thinkin' Lincoln High' song on
'You Tube'. I'll keep you posted.
I just got a call from PFA that
my first fall PFA in-service is coming up in two weeks down in
the Kansas City area. Time to put on my PFA game face and get plans
ready. I told Cyndee, I have finished one of my first blog and
will be preparing for 'Fall Kick Offs'. She said, “That's
Have a Fun-Fit-Day!!
on the image above to view Steve's Family Slideshow