How to Become a Physical Education Teacher

gymnasium basketball court

What is a Physical Education Teacher?

A physical education (PE) teacher plays a crucial role in educating students about physical fitness, sports, and overall physical well-being. They create and deliver engaging lesson plans that promote the development of students’ strength, endurance, coordination, and flexibility through various activities and exercises.

Becoming a physical education teacher is for dedicated individuals who love kids, sports and physical fitness. Today more than ever good health, nutrition and exercise are important for our nation’s children, and PE teachers play an important role in their students’ overall development. If you love sports, are passionate about health and fitness, and want to work with kids, becoming a K-12 physical education teacher could be a great career choice for you.

Physical Education Teacher Job Description

Most schools require all students to take gym classes, so if you become a physical education teacher you’ll have the opportunity to interact with students in your school across every grade level. Some physical education teachers even support more than one school, holding rotating classes at different schools on different days of the week.

  • In elementary schools, physical education teachers work with children of all fitness levels to improve coordination, teach teamwork and inspire a love for physical activity.
  • In middle or high school classes you can often plan what you’ll teach depending your experience or area of interest. Course offerings may range from the traditional, such as baseball, basketball, soccer or tennis to more esoteric activities such as rock climbing, ultimate Frisbee, aerobics and dance.

Planning assignments and evaluations for your students and monitoring their progress throughout the year is a large part of the job. And, like any elementary or secondary school teacher, you may have other duties, such as monitoring student progress, attending faculty meetings, conferencing with parents and completing administrative tasks.

Education and Certification

To become a gym teacher, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in order to teach at a public elementary or secondary school. Requirements vary by state, so contact your state Department of Education to discover teacher certification requirements in your area.

Your curriculum will include classes such as kinesiology, exercise physiology, nutrition, and health and wellness, as well as activity courses such as golf, aerobics, basketball, tennis, racquetball, and team and/or individual sports.

Teachers who major in health and physical education must also complete certification requirements that include completion of approved teacher education courses and hands-on classroom teaching experience. There are professional associations that offer continuing education and certification, such as Society for Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE), and many states have dedicated associations for their territory. These requirements can also be accomplished by completing a master’s degree in education or by simply fulfilling class requirements and taking a certification test.

Who Should Become a Physical Education Teacher?

You should become a physical education teacher if sports, health and physical activity are your thing. If you love new physical challenges and games, it can also help. As a PE teacher, you will be tasked with inspiring students to take up physical activity, to love the challenge of competition, and to be team players and good sports.

The best PE teachers are fascinated with kinesthetic learning and unlocking the body’s movement potential in conjunction with intellectual challenges. Where the rest of a student’s day is full of study and book and lesson learning, you can help them discover how to use their other sort of intelligence. For example, you might create lessons that teach interpretive dance, or more strategic and less active sports such as darts or archery.

As a PE teacher you’ll believe in healthy competition and teaching students how to strive for success in all of its forms. This includes teaching students broader lessons about how to learn from a loss or to value winning but also to be critical of one’s performance, seeking ways to improve and develop.

Physical education bridges the gap between many parts of life. If you have innovative ideas about how to teach kids how to integrate the lessons of the ball field to those of the classroom, the playground and life in general, you will be very much in demand.

Most of all you must have the patience for kids in general and have a sense of how to tap the potential of less-athletic students as well as your athletic superstars.

Why are Physical Education Teachers Important?

Physical education teachers are important because they help students learn the importance of physical activity and how it contributes to their overall health and wellness. They’ll use a holistic approach to help kids understand how physical activity, intellectual learning and nutrition combine to create a positive outcome for life.

It’s been proven that physical activity helps regulate stress levels. These days, even young children are pushed hard to perform well on standardized tests, and there are copious amounts of homework. PE teachers provide at least one outlet if only for an hour a day, where kids can focus on a purely physical task, such as climbing a rope or throwing a ball.

Beyond physical activity, PE teachers frequently teach other aspects of health such as nutrition. Students need to learn more about healthy diets if they are going to be active agents in the struggle against obesity, and physical education teachers can help them understand how all the pieces of a healthy lifestyle fit together.

The Importance of Physical Education to Today’s Youth

Physical education can also help offset the hours kids spend on their computers and phones and interacting with their peers only through social media. In the PE classroom, you can work with kids to show them the benefits of teamwork and how to work with other students to achieve a common goal.

Job Prospects for PE Teachers

While most schools only have a demand for one PE teacher, the nation is seeing growth in the education sector overall. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for high school teachers in general is 1% through 2032, which is as fast as average for all careers. Salaries are also good, with high school teachers earning a median annual salary of $62,360. As you improve your academic credentials with a master’s degree and hands-on teaching experience, your earnings are likely to increase as well.

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