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Kent teacher makes running fun at Sunrise Elementary
When Ryan Kaufman proposed the idea of a running club this fall at Sunrise Elementary School he was expecting 40 or 50 runners. He got 140 signups.
Kaufman, who teaches P.E. at the Kent school, elected to start the group after principal Katherine Geiss proposed setting up after-school clubs to help engage the community. Kaufman thought a running club would be a way to get the students into exercise by preparing them for the city of Kent's Christmas Rush 5K fun run on Dec. 7.
"That's the whole point of this," Kaufman said, "to get kids to do something they never thought they could."
Kaufman says he might have jumped the gun a few times, both in announcing the club before Geiss had formalized the idea, and also inviting parents as volunteers before he had confirmed it would pass with the district. But in the end, he felt he'd rather ask forgiveness than permission because he believed in the importance of the program.
Having three times as many kids as he planned has also forced Kaufman to restructure the program and enlist the aid of local parents and teachers who are also training to run.
"We tried a mass track run, that didn't work," he said.
The club is divided between younger kindergarten through third-graders running on the school's track, while the fourth- to sixth-graders run a half-mile circuit around the school itself.
He feels that the club dovetails well with the movement toward fitness in schools and provides students with a way to stay fit that they can do on their own. He's focused his training program on building up the kids endurance but in a fun way that won't turn them off to the idea of exercise.
Everyone involved in the club has enthusiastically praised it, from the students to parents to teachers.
"It's actually pretty fun, and I never thought I would be this happy and excited for running," said student Katya Uvarov, who plans on joining the school's track team in the spring. "I think kids actually enjoy being here."
Other students, while having difficulty with running, have said that they enjoy the program since it is encouraging them to try push themselves.
Student Ryan McDonald said that the club has been educational as well as a way to build his running stamina. He's learned to "push yourself to run more than you think you can," he said. "It helps you believe in yourself."
Teachers like Chris Wheeler have also chimed in.
"It was a great way to get involved in the school a little bit more, to know the kids a little bit more, and get in shape a little bit more," Wheeler said.
Saraya Parsons, a parent at the school, has volunteered since the beginning of the program and said that she was amazed when she saw the size of the club at its first meeting.
"It felt like being part of something big that also creates community within schools," she said.