The New PE with Fit to Learn Teacher Lori Klein-Blazek

October 20, 2015

Lori Klein-Blazek has been teaching physical education in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for more than three decades, and she’s seen her profession change quite a bit during that span of time. For one, don’t call her a gym teacher. She says “gym” carries outdated connotations about PE and those who teach it.

“In the movies, it’s always some guy with a whistle and a cap and a clipboard who sits in a chair, blows the whistle and yells, ‘Throw things at each other!’” she says. “We’re not that anymore. I think administrators and parents are seeing that we are giving students important life skills.”

Lori, who currently teaches PE at Jungman Elementary School in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, takes the health and wellness of her students very seriously. It doesn’t matter if Lori teaches a student the skills to become a great basketball player, because the lesson Lori is teaching is not really about basketball. It’s about learning important values like teamwork and respect, hard work and the importance of health and wellness—lessons for students to carry for the rest of their lives.

Lori views each new year as a chance to push herself to be more creative and to make lessons more engaging for her students. As a physical education teacher, she’s inspired countless students to lead healthier and more active lives.

One way she’s been able to do that is through her leadership and participation in Healthy Schools Campaign’s Fit to Learn professional development program, which helps teachers make health and wellness a regular part of the school and classroom experience. This allows her to inspire other teachers at Jungman to incorporate activity breaks throughout the school day.

Students clearly benefit from more opportunities to be active throughout the day. “How long can you sit still? My limit’s about 10 seconds,” she says. “How can we expect our kids to sit still for an hour or two hours? Their bodies are telling them to move.” Lori taps into resources from our Fit to Learn program to help with her own instruction strategies and shares those with her peer classroom teachers.

Lori’s experience and enthusiasm for teaching speaks for itself, but she’s also received numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding achievement and dedication to Chicago students, including: Illinois and CPS Elementary Physical Educator of the Year in 2012, CPS Exemplary Wellness Champion in 2015, and she’s a past president of the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. And just last month, she was awarded a 2015 Change for Good Leadership Award at our Change for Good luncheon.