Educator prefers a classroom with hoops

April 05, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's note: This is the seventh in a monthly series highlighting excellent educators in Washington County elementary schools. Next month: Lincolnshire Elementary School.

WILLIAMSPORT - Lois Deneen, a physical education teacher at Hickory Elementary School for 29 years, always planned to become a schoolteacher, but she thought she would be working in classrooms, not in a gym, she said.

While her plans and goals changed, it all worked out for the best, she said in an interview last week.

While Deneen, 51, of Needmore, Pa., has thought on occasion about returning to school to become a classroom teacher, she decided she prefers her current job, she said.

"I am going to teach as long as my body allows me to teach. ... I chose the right subject area," she said.


Deneen is a terrific asset to the school, Principal Larry Smith said.

"She is an extremely talented, dedicated, committed educator who consistently goes the extra mile to support all students," Smith said.

Deneen grew up on a dairy farm in Needmore. Her mother would have liked to have attended college but did not have the opportunity, she said.

Her parents encouraged her to follow in the footsteps of an aunt who was a classroom teacher. But when Deneen was in high school and started to play sports, she really liked the coaches and decided she would like to teach physical education, she said.

After she graduated from college and began looking for a job, she could not find any high school physical education job openings, she said. She decided to try teaching the subject at an elementary school level instead, and loved it.

"They grew on me," she said.

She said she enjoys watching students grow and learn, and seeing them year after year as they proceed through the grades, she said.

She teaches the children gymnastics, ball-handling skills with basketball and soccer, and how to use pogo sticks and jump ropes, in addition to other activities, she said.

While the students can't play games such as soccer or basketball during the physical education class, she organizes sports games during recess, she said.

All fifth-grade students are allowed to participate in an annual gym event, which was held earlier this month, to demonstrate their athletic abilities, she said.

Students as young as kindergartners have written Deneen letters detailing their plans for the show, which is typically packed with other students and family members in the audience, she said.

Deneen has enjoyed watching changes in how boys and girls approach sports. The days of boys thinking girls can't play sports as well as they do are mostly gone, with boys sometimes choosing girls over boys when picking members for teams, she said.

"The boys don't think of it as a big deal," she said.

She used to have some girls who preferred to talk or walk over playing some sports, but that does not happen anymore, she said.

"It has changed much for the better," she said.

Her favorite part of the job is "knowing that you, as a teacher, have tried your best to make a difference in a child's life," she said in an e-mail. "It is so rewarding when you've had a student for seven years (pre-kindergarten to fifth grade) and they come back as a high school student and tell you things they still remember about your class and how something you said or did for them will never be forgotten.

"It is so rewarding to run into a former student in the mall or in a restaurant and they come up and say hello or give you a hug," Deneen wrote.

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