There is much that stands out about the movement program at Mountain View Elementary. As with all SVVSD schools, physical activity is valued and respected as an integral, and influential, part of students’ whole health, availability to learn, and education. But perhaps what best characterizes this close-knit, hardworking Title 1 school’s approach to physical activity is the spirit behind it: there is teamwork, camaraderie, and a heartfelt caring for others.
There may be no more poignant example of the supportive nature of the Mountain View community than at a special end of year ceremony for the school’s 100 Mile Club celebrating the club’s first year. In January of 2016, 10-year old Mountain View student Priscila Acosta tragically passed away as the result of a car accident. Physical Activity Leader and Mountain View PE teacher Josh Law was haunted by the incident. “I kept thinking about it, and even think I had a dream about it, where I just kept wondering, what can we do to honor her,” he says. “I thought, maybe there’s a way we can do so through 100-Mile Club.”
Priscila wasn’t a student who always logged lots of miles, Law says, but she always participated without fail. At the time of her death, she had recorded 33 miles. Law approached principal Jennifer Piccone, and received approval to allow students to donate miles in Priscila’s name. “We didn’t have scanners yet at that point,” Law recounts. “So we logged miles with sticks. At the end of a session, kids would count their sticks and give them to me. When I told them they had an option to donate sticks for Priscila, they all jumped on board. We got her to her 100-mile goal in less than two weeks.”
At the year’s all school assembly, with Priscila’s family present, Law announced all students who donated miles, inviting them to stand up. “That was a really special, impactful moment,” he says. “The biggest takeaway was the selflessness, the power of selfless acts. That was felt significantly, even for the youngest kids, I believe.” Priscila’s family was presented with a shadow box, a T-shirt, and a medal.
Of course, few moments are so stirringly resonant as what took place at that assembly. But even in the regular day-to-day, Mountain View is a role model for teamwork, not in small part due to their physical education teacher and activity leader, himself a graduate of St. Vrain Valley Schools. Law, now in the middle of his 13th year of teaching, all at Mountain View Elementary, didn’t set his sights on teaching particularly early. His journey into the profession is part coming of age, part love story. “I always loved sports, and I had a dream of becoming a professional athlete,” he says. “My senior year of high school, though, head basketball coach Jeff Kloster and head football coach Doug Johnson [of Longmont High School] both suggested I’d be good at teaching. I helped with sport camps throughout high school, and they saw the way I worked. They felt I had the right mindset and temperament. Each was a positive role model for me, each being both my teacher and coach. I had and continue to have a lot of respect for them, so held onto their advice, if just in the back of my mind.”
Law went to college in Kansas where he pursued his baseball dream for a semester. At that point, he changed schools, moving to Oklahoma, where he pursued a degree in education, thinking back to the encouragement of his teachers. After graduating, he moved back to Longmont, where he started to explore coaching options at the college level while substitute teaching. He was just getting serious in his search when he met his future wife, Amber, also from Longmont and whose younger brother he happened to be coaching. “I never looked back,” Law says. “I always wanted to play sports, and I do. I just apply my skills in a different way than I expected. I tell people, I get to share my skills with kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade. That’s pretty cool. ”
Law may not have planned to become a teacher from childhood, but without even realizing it, his teaching was trendsetting. Prior to 100-Mile Club’s implementation, Law and co-leader Joan Maher, a Mountain View first grade teacher, formed a running club at the school. Students participated in run sessions offered twice a day for two days each week, 12 weeks a year, earning trinkets for necklaces. The club was an immediate hit, with the necklaces becoming like status symbols, Law says. “When 100-Mile Club began, we were basically provided more resources and structure for what we were already doing,” he says. “Now we meet year-round.”
In addition to leading 100-Mile Club, Law supports and facilitates all school movement. Teachers are encouraged to take frequent movement breaks, every hour when possible. Each Friday, the school participates in all school movement. “At first it was just me jumping around leading movement to music,” Law says. “But this year I started a google doc, where teachers sign up to lead, outside if it’s nice. Our Spanish Liaison going to start setting up a coffee table for parents to increase involvement and build community.”
Teachers at Mountain View are quick to back the importance of movement at school. They can see the difference activity makes, positively shaping students’ behaviors, focus, and overall outlook. “I sense a real shift in behaviors on 100-Mile Club days,” says 4th grade teacher Courtney Groskin, who participates in the club with her students. And it’s great for goal-setting, too. Kids have an intrinsic desire to better themselves and reach their goals, but not in a competitive way. Everyone is genuinely excited about each other’s milestones.”
Law always makes a point of trying something new each year.This year, one of those things was stacking, with students participating in the World Sport Stacking Association Championships this past fall. Law says the students really enjoyed stacking, and he may well continue. But no matter what or how many new activities are introduced, some things will continue at Mountain View without doubt, such as the wholehearted team approach to movement for the the good of students.
Hanging on the wall outside of the Mountain View gymnasium is a plaque showcasing student recipients of the Priscila Acosta Spirit Award. Above it, a photo of its namesake.This small corner of the elementary school is a compelling reminder of the selflessness and supportive ethic that is fostered here. “There’s a lot to manage in schools these days,” Law says. “It can be overwhelming. But I look forward to it every day–because we get to change lives, and it’s not a short-term thing. It’s for a lifetime.”