Mid-Michigan teacher includes every student in gym class

DELHI TOWNSHIP., Mich. (WILX) — Gym classes are open to all students, but that doesn’t always mean everyone can participate. Allison Wonch has been named Michigan Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year, after finding ways to include every student in the gym.

Audrey Murphy is a second grade student at Sycamore Elementary School. When Murphy was asked about his gym teacher, Allison Wonch, Murphy replied, “I like the gym because I just like seeing it.”

Dariya Terry is also a second year student at Sycamore and said of Wonch, “Every time we come here she has a big smile and it’s nice.”

Allison Wonch grew up in an athletic family and has always valued physical activity. She has spent her career finding ways to bring that same value to students with disabilities.

“When you get a unique student who really has obstacles, you’re really motivated to think things through,” Wonch said. “Like how do I make them successful so they enjoy it and want to keep being there?”

Wonch has been heavily involved in Special Olympics both at the state and national level. Now, she uses her expertise to bring tailored physical education to students at Holt.

“There’s a place for everyone, and we can help facilitate that through movement, through PE, through adapted PE,” Wonch said.

Adaptive PE is to meet students at their current level of ability. For example, if jumping rope is too tough, Wonch offers jump rope substitutes (eg, pool noodles and hula hoops) to ensure that all students can get active.

“To participate, to be included, and to find a way to experience success and joy,” Wonch said, “We move to experience joy, and then we keep moving because we experience that joy.”

She said being on the sidelines is no fun for anyone and “everyone wants to be a part of something and feel included”.

Wonch also noted that suitable pe ideals should go beyond the classroom.

“If you are in an opportunity where you see someone being left out, find a way to include them. Open your circle, open your mind and just include them. Just being included is an amazing opportunity said Wonch.

“Student love, Mrs. Wonch.” said Shannon Huff, Principal of Sycamore Elementary, “Each of her students feels like they belong.”

Huff says it was an easy decision to bring Wonch on in August, given his experience with adaptive physical education.

Wonch said working to include everyone is hugely rewarding, aside from its many rewards. She was also named Outstanding Coach by Special Olympics North America and was nominated for the Michigan Life Changer of the Year Award.

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