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Valuable Spring Break Lessons

People putting their shoes in a circle on the floor.
March 24, 2020

Clayton Gallus spent part of his spring break in Washington, D.C. advocating for the future of his profession.

The student in UMD’s Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) program participated in the Society of Health and Physical Educators SPEAK Out! Day along with UMD PETE Instructor Lisa Paulson and a contingent of physical education professionals and students from around the country.

UMD PETE Instructor Lisa Paulson with Clayton Gallus at the Capitol Paulson participated in the event last year and secured permission and funding to bring one student with her this year. “I knew it would be an amazing experience for a student to advocate for our profession at that level. Also, it would be great visibility for our program,” she says. “Most importantly, having a college student talk to lawmakers about how important our work is will hopefully speak volumes.”

The goal of the advocacy day is to achieve full funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act (Title II and Title IV, Part A). The federal education legislation includes funding for programs related to health and physical education in K-12 schools as well as professional development opportunities for teachers.

The group had a busy itinerary that included coffee with Senator Tina Smith and meetings with a number of Congressional staffers. “These people make decisions about where our taxpayer dollars go but they don’t necessarily know what’s happening in the classroom,” explains Paulson.

In the meetings, the group educated legislators about the importance of health and physical education to students’ social and emotional learning. They also emphasized the need for teachers to have access to the latest teaching tools and be aware of the latest best practices. 

SPEAK Out! Day participants donned business attire but also wore neon-colored sneakers—which caught the attention of lawmakers. They shared written messages from Duluth-area secondary school students to illustrate the importance of health and physical education classes. One especially powerful testimonial came from a student who said his health class lessons helped him save his sister’s life when she was choking.

Gallus says he learned a lot about U.S. history on the trip as well as how the Senate and House of Representatives operate on a day-to-day basis. Meeting educators and professionals from all around the country was also a highlight for him. That networking could prove particularly helpful in the future as several people told him to reach out regarding potential job opportunities after graduation.

A Ward Wells scholarship through the Department of Applied Human Sciences made the trip possible for Gallus. Beyond valuable networking and learning opportunities, the experience had an even greater impact on him. “Doing this has given me a feeling of power. It’s more than just going to school and going through the motions to get a job,” he says. “I was representing my field and this affirmed how passionate I am about what I’m going for.”

Society of Health and Physical Educators SPEAK Out! Day group at Capitol Hill

Note: Campus community members who have recently traveled are following CDC recommendations to monitor themselves and self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.