The role of a physical education teacher

I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Robert Pangrazi at the Wyoming State AAHPERD Convention. Dr. Pangrazi is what I would consider an expert in the field of physical education. He has published over 50 textbooks and over 100 research articles on the subject, and now conducts training workshops for physical education teachers nationally (WAHPERD, 2009). Being involved in physical education for many years, he posed an interesting question to the teachers attending his lecture: what is your goal as a physical education teacher?

Of course, the first thought to come to mind may be to improve fitness levels among students. After all, obesity rates among children has reached epidemic proportions with one in five Kindergarteners entering school already overweight or obese (Ratey, 2009). Yet, Dr. Pangrazi sited multiple research studies showing no increase in fitness levels among students attending physical education classes. Teachers, he explained, simply do not see the students often enough to make a big difference in this area (Pangrazi, 2009).

Another purpose for physical educators could be to increase skill level, especially sports skills. For many years, physical education was equated with learning sports. While he did not discount benefits of learning sports, and the skills in playing a game, Dr. Pangrazi cautioned not to focus exclusively on sports for physical education. He sited research that showed those who play sports well typically have a genetic disposition towards athleticism. Teachers do not make skilled sportsmen and women out of every student simply by teaching the sport to them. Some kids just simply will not play as well as others, or enjoy it. Plus, rarely do students participate in sports as adults, and those that do were probably skilled players in school. This leaves a large percentage of people not participating in any activity because they have not learned to enjoy it, and they believe they are not good at any activity anyway. Unfortunately, it is these people who are at the highest risk for health complications from obesity and non-activity. (Pangrazi, 2009).

Therefore, if physical educators can not increase fitness levels in their classes or create skilled athletes, what is their role? I pose this question because, as busy as we are turning in assignments and signing up for classes next quarter, few of us probably have taken time to think what role our teaching will play in the big picture; and until we do, those who make decisions about the importance of physical education in schools will not take our job seriously (Pangrazi, 2009).

For his answer to this, Dr. Pangrazi explained that physical education should really be about physical activity and health, as he explained, “physical education is the only part of the school curriculum focusing on physical activity and health. They need us” (Pangrazi, 2009). It is up to the physical educator to teach students skills that they can carry with them their whole lives. In his curriculum he focuses on accountability in the areas of increasing physical activity, healthy eating habits, sun safety, and developing healthy attitudes towards physical activity. He also focuses on instructional areas of physical fitness (i.e. wearing pedometers), skills development, and character development (i.e. sportsmanship). (Pangrazi, 2009).

What is your goal as a physical educator? Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Pangrazi?


Pangrazi, R.P. (2009) Active and healthy schools: a future for the profession. Presented at

           WAHPERD 2009 Conference, Riverton, Wyoming.

Ratey, J. (2009). The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Presented at

             WAHPERD 2009 Convention, Riverton, Wyoming.

 WAHPERD (2009). Program of events [Program Guide]. Riverton, WY: Author.



I agree with your comments, and I hope I haven't portrayed Dr. Pangrazi's curriculum incorrectly. I have used his curriculum guide and there are plenty of sports played, and sports skills are taught in every level of K-12. His point was teachers shouldn't focus on making good football or field hockey players, but be sure to teach skills students can use throughout life. Sports do play a role in adulthood, outside of athletic games- for instance many people love to play racquetball at my fitness center (I learned how to play in 7th grade PE). A good curriculum comes down to variety so that teachers can touch as many students as possible- even those with two left feet or hands. Thanks for your comments and I apologize for any confusion on my part.


Thank you for sharing Dr. Pangrazi’s research and your ideas on this matter. I think it is incredibly important to consider our roles as physical education teachers, just as a company or a school would write a mission statement. We should be consistent and have a goal for what we want to accomplish each day and each year as the students go through our classes.

I think Susan brought up a good point and it was the same experience I had while I was going to school. I learned how to play basketball and I learned the correct way to lift weights while I was in middle school P.E. I then turned out for the basketball team that year, and I still lift weights to this day.

I think Dr. Pangrazi is correct though, that we as P.E. teachers don’t have enough time during the day to make a lasting impression on many of the students we see. This hopefully makes our resolve to impact or inspire those students even stronger.

I suspect that those of us who go into teaching aren’t just trying to make a pay check, but are trying to make a difference. Regardless of the subject, whether it is history, English or P.E., teachers themselves are the inspiration that can drive a student.

I think that as we derive a mission statement or our lesson plans for P.E., we introduce the students to a gamut of sports and principles of health. At the same time, we strive to have fun and really inspire them to always give their best effort. We never know when or how we will impact a student.


Thank you for sharing Dr. Pangrazi’s research with us. As someone aspiring to become a physical education teacher, I find this type of information very useful. As it pertains to the role of a physical education teacher, I personally feel that physical education isn’t just about sports anymore. Teaching physical education goes far beyond just athletics. I feel that it is the physical education teacher’s job to inspire and instruct students to stay fit, to challenge themselves to meet goals, and to begin a lifelong commitment to health and good fitness habits.

Also, I flagged your post as outstanding. You did an excellent job using APA format and citing your sources.

You couldn't have picked a better session to attend at your conference because Bob Pangrazi is the authority. I'm sure you have seen me refer to him quite often in my content because he's the best. I don't agree that there is a genetic disposition required to be successful at sport but I do agree with the other points you have shared. It is problematic to base your curriculum on traditional sports, and that is why in the class I advocate Sport Education because it is a way to teach with traditional team sports and advocate some of the other values you have mentioned. Coincidentally, the inventor of Sport Education is Siedentop, who is the other super-authority in PE teaching.  You should all have either Pangrazi's or Siedentop's (or both) teaching methods book on your shelf. I probably should require it for this class, but I haven't. For PES394 and PES494 the next two terms we do emphasize activities and sport that are more consistent with Pangrazi's philosophy you have shared.

Also, attending sessions like this highlights the importance of going to professional conferences. These will definitely help your career by inspiring you, changing your paradigm, and making professional contacts that last a lifetime. That is why I have been emphasizing this in the following projects this term:


I feel very fortunate to have met with Dr. Pangrazi, and I will be looking for information by Siedentop. Thank you for the information and for the comments (as well as the nomination)!

It's nice Penny that you were able to see someone with this much experience in P.E.. Teacher's who are now in the field of P.E. have so much more to cover besides coaching. They now have health to teach and a wide variety of other subjects related to health and fitness. Interesting paper.

What an incredible experience to attend a seminar by Dr. Pangrazi! I would LOVE that opportunity. Thank you for sharings his views so well, Penny!