When schools closed in mid-March, Binghamton physical education teacher Melinda Ligeikis just wanted to find a way to keep her high school students active.
Like many P.E. teachers, the Binghamton Teachers Association member ventured into the video world, posting one- and two-minute fitness challenges every day on Google Classroom and her Twitter account. She was pleasantly surprised how students responded to the bite-size workout clips — even kids who generally don’t like participating in school P.E.
“I think the difference is that instead of being in a large setting, a large gymnasium with 40-plus kids, they’re alone in their living room or in their bedrooms,” Ligeikis said. “I really focused on keeping all of the exercises and challenges short, so they could just take five minutes out of their day to be active.”
She keeps it simple, featuring exercises that can be done without special equipment — like one-minute wall sits. She’s also tried to keep it fun, using everyday objects from around the house like rolls of toilet paper to build upper body strength and milk cartons as weights.
During spring break, she went creative with a beach theme – complete with sunglasses, Hawaiian leis and, of course, crabwalks. She also mixes it up with guest appearances by her husband Evan, an elementary physical education teacher in neighboring Susquehanna Valley. “The kids love it when Mrs. L. challenges Mr. L,” said Ligeikis, who was featured on local TV stations.
But the biggest surprise of all came about a month into school building closures when Ligeikis received a phone call at home from the building secretary. “She said I have Good Morning America on the other line,” Ligeikis recalled. “I was shocked when they asked if I could do a Zoom interview!”
After GMA featured the interview and her videos, local ABC television affiliates around the country and Fox News posted clips as well. “I’ve gotten feedback and encouragement from people all over – even a person as far away as New Zealand,” she said. “I certainly never expected this to reach beyond my high school students.”
Ligeikis noted educators everywhere are doing all that they can to support their students both academically and emotionally. “We’re teaching completely differently — from our living rooms — but we’re still making those connections.”