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CLINE: Staying active can put you in prime time

Dana Griffith 

Dana Griffith 

Dana Griffith will meet Deion Sanders today. And she and her husband will take in a Yankees game tonight before watching the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night in New York City.

It will be a busy couple of days for the Berkmar Middle School physical education teacher, which is more than fitting for an educator who has made a name for herself keeping students active.

Griffith’s trip is part of the reward for her being named the NFL Network PE Teacher of the Year. The award, presented by NFL Network’s Keep Gym in School campaign, is part of the promotion for the NFL’s Play 60 program to keep students active.

In addition to the trip, the 2007 Gwinnett County Middle School Teacher of the Year receives a $10,000 award and $10,000 will also be donated to Berkmar Middle.

“It’s definitely very exciting,” said Griffith, who said the donation to Berkmar Middle will go to build a new track. “I love sports and I love physical activity. The whole itinerary (in New York), I’m just beside myself.”

Griffith, who has taught for 17 years in the Gwinnett County Public Schools system, was chosen from more than 2,000 nominations. According to a release from the NFL, she helped develop the curriculum for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program targeting health enhancing behaviors for kids and also helped write the Georgia State Standards for Physical Education.

At Berkmar Middle, where she has taught since its opening seven years ago, she has also tried to involve family members with events like mother-daughter aerobics. Griffith tries to keep the students active outside of school, sponsoring programs like running and fitness clubs.

“I believe very much in the importance of what I do,” said Griffith, who lives in Suwanee with her husband Mike and two young children. “(School is the) one place where students can consistently receive this message (of physical activity).”

Said Berkmar Middle Principal Kenney Wells: “Dana exemplifies the characteristics of a true advocate of physical education. She empowers students to take responsibility for their health and well being by providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to become successful learners and healthy, productive adults.”

Griffith said the differences in physical fitness from when she started teaching to now is very noticeable, which makes programs like Play 60 all the more important. Griffith said she tries to exploit the students’ penchant for gaming by having them ride virtual bikes and participate in games like “Dance Dance Revolution.”

In addition to her own excitement, Griffith said her students have been happy for her as well. One of her students nominated her and one of her classes wrote a letter of recommendation.

“They have been a huge part of this process,” Griffith said of the students. “They’re thrilled, not only for me, but for the school and the opportunity it’s brought the school.”

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/toddcline.