Mabank’s Partner P.E. class will change your life

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : February 13, 2013

Monitor Photo/Sam Epps Partner McKenzie Grant (right) works with student Taylor Kirkpatrick on the kettle-ball swing activity.

Monitor Photo/Sam Epps
Partner McKenzie Grant (right) works with student Taylor Kirkpatrick on the kettle-ball swing activity.

By Sam Epps
Sports Editor

MABANK–Mabank is ahead of the curve in many ways, including the inclusion of students with various challenges (i.e. special needs students).
In January, the U.S. Education Department issued a directive insisting schools include challenged students in sports programs, or to provide equal alternative options.
At the beginning of this school year, Mabank High School began a new program called “Partner P.E.”
Coach Stacy Shelton heads up the program, but the class is student-led and moves at a comfortable pace for students with multiple challenges.
“We (Mabank ISD) have always given kids opportunities to participate in all physical activities, regardless of any challenges they may have,” Shelton said.
Mabank learned of the Partner P.E. programs from some Dallas-area schools, and decided to implement the program in Mabank.
Mabank is the only area school to have such a program in place, although many schools have made it a point to include special needs students in a host of physical activities.
There have since been many smaller schools from the area, and around East Texas, that have looked to Mabank for guidance in a Partner P.E. program.
The school handbook describes the class as “an opportunity for fellow students to assist students with multiple challenges (MC students) during their adapted physical education class.”
Simply put, each challenged student works with a partner. Periodically, students will switch partners, giving them a chance to experience each other’s differing personalities and skill levels.
All students must be approved to be a partner for MC students.
“Before a student can be a partner for the MC students, they must go through a rigorous two-week training program,” Shelton explained.
While the class is student-led and student-based, Shelton remains handy in the gym should her assistance be needed.
Teacher’s aids Karen Bowers, John Vinson and Lisa Helms also participate; as does the head of the Life Skills Department Michelle Baldwin. There are 12 partners and 12 students.
Students work on various sports skills Mondays through Thursdays, with sports stations two of those days, and visiting the weight room for the other two days.
“We do fun activities on Fridays, concentrating less on sports and more on fun,” Shelton said.
Partner P.E. provides students with the standard physical activity aspects of any P.E. class, including sports skills, knowledge of the rules, conditioning and strength.
What makes Partner P.E. such a vital class for MC students is the life lessons it gives to both students and partners.
Students learn confidence, people skills and acceptance.
“I like it (the class). It is cool and amazing,” student Kenneth Attaway said. “I like working out, and I love the Friday games.”
Attaway has gained enough confidence from the class that he will be trying out for the junior varsity football team.
Student Kyle Brawner is looking forward to bowling, but enjoys basketball and “working with the girls” in the class.
Brawner competes in bowling for Mabank in the Special Olympics.
Partners get the special privilege of seeing the students they work with grow, mature and come out of their shells.
“I love getting to see the kids improve in so many ways,” partner Jordan Koskelin said.
“The students get more one-on-one time which helps them succeed,” partner Mackenzie Fowler said.
“The kids enjoy being here,” Bethany Thomas commented, while all the partners agreed “They make my day. We get attached to the students.”
“That attachment is one of the reasons students get new partners periodically,” Shelton explained.
Partner Kayla Childers summed up the Partner P.E. course’s advantages for both students and partners – “it has changed my life.”