, 2022-10-06 15:13:41,
VERGENNES — Vergennes Union Elementary School Physical Education teacher Robyn Newton had plenty to smile about last week.
This past Friday’s schoolwide annual Fun Run alone normally would not only be a highlight of the week, but of the year.
One of Newton’s many innovations at VUES, the fundraising Fun Run was blessed with sunny weather and ear-to-ear smiles. Students and families take pledges to run or walk a course that covers the campuses of VUES and nearby Vergennes Union High School.
Typically, the proceeds fund P.E. equipment for VUES. This time it raised more than $4,000 toward a covered pavilion to be built in the city recreation park near VUES. Newton, a South Burlington resident, represents her school district on the Vergennes recreation committee and has helped spearhead the pavilion effort.
But last week offered much more for 49-year-old Newton, who is entering her 28th year at VUES — she was named Vermont Teacher of the Year by the state Agency of Education.
Newton recalled being one of the four finalists, with the other three also making strong cases. And two were classroom teachers who historically have dominated the award.
She was surprised by the result.
“I just was listening to what they were presenting, and I was just thinking, ‘I don’t know how the state department is going to choose between the four of us, because we’re apples and oranges,’” she said. “Each of us did something incredible in our own right. For me to be up against these great classroom teachers, I’m like, ‘Wow, that feels good. And to win!”
Making her even happier was her belief the award honors not only her, but also physical education as a whole. Research has proven that physical activity during the day boosts brain activity and academic performance. Newton believes this award is a step toward wider acceptance of that truth.
“We not only help kids physically, but it helps you with your brain. It helps you with social and emotional (learning),” she said, adding, “it kind of validates it, which seems pretty awesome.”
Newton heard from many P.E. teachers after the announcement.
“They’re like, ‘This is incredible for our profession,’” Newton said. “A lot of other PE colleagues around the state are like, ‘Wow! Go PE! Way to represent.’”
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