NHS P.E. teacher receives regional honor
NAUGATUCK — Anthony Loomis got his start at Naugatuck High School 10 years ago as a long-term substitute. A decade later, Loomis has been named the Northeast region high school physical education teacher of the year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators of America.
“I was ecstatic. Very, very happy,” said the 31-year-old Loomis. “To be recognized by people you look up to is a truly humbling and affirming feeling.”
Loomis combines his passions for exercise and teaching as a physical education teacher at Naugatuck High.
“Physical activity has always been there to boost my confidence and get me through tough situations. There’s nothing better in my mind than to give that back to kids,” Loomis said.
The award was presented by SHAPE America, an alliance of physical education professionals whose mission is to advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance, and sport, according to its website.
While he has always had a passion for physical activity, Loomis said he was drawn to education because of his nieces and nephews. He was in eighth grade when his first nephew was born and he enjoyed watching him grow up and learn.
“Throughout high school I got to play with him, and I’ve always loved kids,” Loomis said. “You can change your life for the better through physical activity, you can make yourself feel better, and I love working with children.”
Loomis’ passion for teaching and physical activity can be seen in the way he conducts his classes. Last Friday, Loomis took a moment to talk with each of his students before his class began.
Once class started, Loomis introduced the students to Gary Reho and Bob Anderson of Bergamo’s Martial Arts in Cheshire, who taught the students the basics of Filipino Kung Tao.
In an effort to show students there is more to physical activity than just the stereotypical gym class activities of crunches, pull-ups and dodgeball, Loomis has been introducing his students to activities such as Kung Tao and Tai Chi in the hopes they’ll find something they enjoy.
Loomis, a Middletown native and current Waterbury resident, earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Springfield College and attended the University of Northern Iowa for his master’s degree. He is currently working on his sixth year degree in education leadership at the University of Bridgeport.
In addition to teaching physical education and earning his sixth year degree, Loomis is also a part of a group of experts comprised of physical education teachers, educators and administrators, working with the state Department of Education to host professional development lectures for other schools.
“I think that really helped with winning the award because it shows I am so passionate about physical education I am willing to take on extra work,” Loomis said.
His approach to physical education has earned him the respect of the school’s administrators as well as students.
“We are very blessed here. We have a phenomenal physical education and health department. Tony Loomis has really taken the lead on doing some really innovative and creative types of programming here at the high school,” Saam said.
Saam said Loomis tries to extend the scope of what he is teaching in the class to encompass the decisions that students make on a daily basis.
“This is really a life changing, life skill building education, so you can live a healthy life now and way in to the future. So the fact that 11 states recognize that he is outstanding, which is something that we knew all along, is just wonderful,” Saam said.
Fellow teacher Roberta Buckmiller, physical education department chair at NHS, said students admire Loomis and look forward to his class.
“It’s like they’re sponges, soaking up what he says,” she said. “He is constantly reading materials to get better, planning ahead all of the time and taking the extra time necessary to make it right. A true leader is constantly growing, and that’s what he is.”
The students also appreciate his efforts.
Recently, a student was inspired in his class to become healthy and lost 50 pounds. Another recently wrote him a note saying he made P.E. fun for the first time.
“The lessons you teach are life lessons,” wrote the student, senior Alexis Simko. “It’s an amazing thing what you are doing; changing the students and their ways of thinking changes the world around them.”
Loomis will head to the National Physical Educators Conference in St. Louis, Miss. in April, where one of the six district winners will be named the National High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
“I don’t know how I am going to react if they call my name,” Loomis said. “I’m floating on cloud nine.”
For Loomis the award is about more than being recognized for his work; it’s about being given a chance to spread his passion for physical activities.
“I would like to use this award and recognition as an opportunity to advocate for physical education. Research by renowned neuroscientists, such as Dr. John Ratey, is making it clearer that physical education is absolutely vital to the learning process and needs to play a larger role,” Loomis said.
Loomis said he would like to see students being more active throughout the week, rather than just the time he has them in his class.
“Exercise prepares the brain for learning, and the best time to learn is immediately after moderate to vigorous activity due to activation in the prefrontal lobe,” Loomis said.
Loomis pointed out that, according to the Center for Disease Control, one-third of children and two-thirds of adults in America are overweight or obese.
“We need to do something about this,” Loomis said. “Being healthy improves the quality of one’s life, and what parent doesn’t want their child to have a good quality of life? What’s more important than providing our children with exercise and inspiration to be healthy?”
The Republican American contributed to this article.