• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Teacher of the Year: Encouraging students to get, stay active

MELODY HAMILTON, who teaches physical education and health classes at Woodford County High School, shares a lot of smiles with her students - before, during and after class. On a recent morning, she asked one student how his mother was doing and another how her grandmother was doing. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Woodford County High School physical education and heath teacher Melody Hamilton always knew she wanted to teach. Her aim has remained the same during her career. She wants students to embrace a sport or other activity so they can stay physically active throughout their lives. "We'll try a plethora of different things (in PE class)," says Hamilton. "Hopefully, one of those things will stick. And they'll learn to do whatever it is they like to do (to stay active) and keep doing that. "The goal," she adds, "is (for students) to participate and learn a little bit more than (they) did when (they) got there. So that's my goal for them." Now in her fourth year at WCHS, Hamilton began her teaching career at Woodford County Middle School in 1999 before spending three-plus years implementing and then overseeing a physical education grant to ensure students in Woodford County schools had access to pedometers, golf and archery equipment, and bicycles promoting lifetime physical activity. Before she came to WCMS, Hamilton spent three years as a consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education and coordinated school health programs across the state. She started this work with the Centers for Disease Control after earning a master's degree in health at Eastern Kentucky University. Hamilton says she returned to the classroom because she missed working with students. And while she appreciates being nominated by her colleagues at WCHS as Teacher of the Year, she describes the "perfect teacher" as a fairytale. "We try hard, we mess up, and we learn from our mistakes," she says of teachers. Their profession demands hard work and long hours, but Hamilton says, "I love teaching. It is not a 'fall back' profession. I have always wanted to teach." The New Jersey native's passion to teach began in elementary school when she taught her dolls what she had learned in school that day. So what about physical fitness and athletics? They've always been a part of Hamilton's life. She played a lot of different sports growing up. She also had older siblings who were active in sports, but says no one factor led to her decision to become a physical education and health teacher. These days, she's passionate about teaching students how to take care of their minds and bodies throughout their lifetimes. "Overall wellness is crucial," Hamilton says. "Students (and adults) need to be able to analyze influences around them and access valid information to make decisions, set goals and ... advocate for themselves in order to practice good health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks." That's a tall order. One that Hamilton says gets her up in the morning and keeps her up at night. Because - other than reading - she views health and physical education as the most valuable learning a student gets in school. "You need to know how to take care of yourself," she explains. "You need to know how to advocate for yourself, set goals for yourself..." Hamilton lives in Woodford County with her husband of 21 years, David, and their two daughters, Evelyn and Lillian. (This is the seventh in a series of seven feature stories about Woodford County Public Schools' 2016-17 Teachers of the Year.)

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