Spotlight on Physical Education Leader Julie Weidner Carter

February 28, 2012

By Kandice Howard, HSC intern 

When thinking about leaders who have made an impact in our lives, families, and communities, does a physical education teacher come to mind? I recently had the opportunity to speak with one PE teacher who is making a profound impact within Chicago Public Schools and communities. Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) Chicago District president Julie Carter shared her commitment to promote health and wellness among Chicago's youth. 

As an avid member of IAHPERD for twenty years, Carter’s leadership spreads awareness about the positive connection between students' health and learning. 

“Students’ brains are positively affected by exercise so one of the best things teachers can do is start the day with a few minutes of movement,” she said. 

The P.E. educator recognizes the importance of providing movement opportunities within lessons as well. For teachers looking to incorporate more movement within their school day, Carter makes some helpful suggestions. 

“One way would be to read a story and have students stand up every time they hear a noun,” she said. “The next time they hear a noun they have to sit down.  Teachers could also play some music and lead student exercises at their seat.  Kids can walk in place, do high-knees, stretch, or do yoga or other movement.” 

Educators across the city note the benefits of in-class physical activity through programs like HSC’s Fit to Learn. Carter also references Brain Gym and Playworks as “excellent resources for teachers to incorporate activity in the classroom.” 

Last year, Julie served on the committee that developed Champions for Wellness, a professional development training for CPS teachers. This training kicked off the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge in CPS. As part of the challenge, Cornell McClellan, personal trainer to the First Family, encouraged families to take the PALA pledge to live an active lifestyle. 

Carter's efforts show her passion for the health and the academic success of Chicago's youth. As IAPHERD Chicago District president, she is working to expand membership, build upon professional development opportunities, and create awareness of resources and grants. 

At the close of our conversation, Carter expressed a very important wish — to increase awareness about the connection between physical education and cognition. Simply put, she said, fit kids are better learners. Thanks to Julie Carter for her great work to promote physical activity and learning!