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PE teacher made bold decision to pursue career he grew up admiring

PE teacher made bold decision to pursue career he grew up admiring

November 12th, 2018 by Phillip Sitter in News

Justin Reynolds poses at a piece of workout equipment located on the waling track behind Callaway Hills Elementary School in Holts Summit.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Justin Reynolds is on home court as he teaches physical education at Callaway Hills Elementary School.

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Reynolds, of Ashland, said he has taught at Callaway Hills for five years and the school is where he attended when he grew up in Holts Summit.

Callaway Hills is also where he was taught PE by his professional role model — Mrs. Marsha Worrel.

"I knew I wanted to be her," Reynolds recalled of Worrel, adding that "I try, I do a lot of the things she did," such as keeping track of mile time scores.

"When I grew up, running was a punishment," but he said he wants to make it enjoyable.

He said gym class games — especially in third through fifth grade — teach team cooperation, as well as physical fitness skills. The school's activities-focused clubs, such as cooking or garden, offer students a variety of interests they can find their skill gifts through.

Initiatives such as the cooking club were started through the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities grant program from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The goal of the grant is to help combat obesity at four area schools — Callaway Hills, East, South and Thorpe Gordon elementary schools.

Reynolds is Callaway Hills' point person for its wellness committee that makes group decisions in efforts in the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities program, for which last month he was recognized with the 2018 "Courageous Champion" award at the annual Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities Convening.

He said he's working on getting chair bands and desk pedalers for classrooms, and some rooms already have exercise bikes or mini-trampolines. He added that it's up to teachers whether they want the bikes or trampolines in their classrooms.

Teaching and promoting students' wellness was not always what he envisioned himself doing, though.

Reynolds said he attended Hudson Community College in Kansas, played baseball while he was there, and then started taking criminal justice classes at Columbia College while he coached baseball on the side.

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He was 12 credit hours away from graduation, though, and realized that criminal justice was not what he wanted to do.

"I knew I wanted to work with people," and he chose to go to Lincoln University to get a degree in physical education.

"That was definitely what I needed to do," Reynolds said of his career path switch, adding that part of his reasoning was that while coaching baseball, he realized he wanted to be with the students during the day, and not just afterschool.

He said the best part of his days is greeting students as they go into the building for breakfast.

He tries to be a consistent, positive role model in students' lives — something not all of them always have.

Reynolds and his wife have two boys — 8 and 13 years old — and they've lived in Ashland for 12 years. Justin also taught at Blair Oaks Middle School for five years before starting at Callaway Hills.