Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Berkmar Middle School physical education teacher Dana Griffith encourages seventh-grader Cristhian Guzman by participating with him during a circuit training activity on Wednesday.
LILBURN -- As the school year comes to an end, Berkmar Middle School's physical education department is looking forward to the realization of a dream.
A track will be installed on the school's P.E. field, and construction could begin as early as this summer, principal Kenney Wells said.
It's all thanks to an award physical education teacher Dana Griffith won from the NFL.
Griffith won the first-ever NFL Network P.E. Teacher of the Year award from the NFL Network's Keep Gym in School campaign. Along with recognition at a ceremony in New York City earlier this month, Griffith received a $10,000 personal award and a $10,000 grant for the school.
"I'm thrilled to be recognized by the NFL Network for my passion of educating students about healthy behaviors and am grateful for the grant for Berkmar Middle School," Griffith said. "As a physical educator, I am proud to share the belief with the NFL Network that we cannot afford to trip at the finish line by putting the health of our nations' kids at risk."
Griffith said she wants students to leave her class with the knowledge and skills to be physically active for a lifetime. Her students don't run every day, but when they do, Griffith is looking forward to having a safe place for students to participate in the activity.
In addition, the school has a running club -- one of many before- and after-school activities that Griffith sponsors -- and participants currently run in the school's bus lanes. Griffith said the installation of the track will also enhance safety for club members.
The clubs are Griffith's way of encouraging physical activity outside of school. More than 60 percent of the students at Berkmar Middle participate in these activities.
Griffith also tries to actively involve family members with events like a mother-daughter aerobics class.
"Ms. Griffith epitomizes the dedicated teachers we want to recognize and applaud," said Dena Kaplan, senior vice president of marketing for the NFL Network. "Her hard work and commitment to educating children about health, nutrition and physical fitness both inside and outside of the classroom sets an example for her fellow educators as well as parents about the importance of fighting childhood obesity by teaching healthy habits at a young age."
Griffith said her parents placed a high value on her personal health and fitness. Her dad went outside with her every day to play ball, and her mom ran the Peachtree Road Race with her until Griffith had children of her own.
"My parents played such a huge role in promoting physical activity," Griffith said. "I also had incredibly good physical education teachers myself who taught me what a strong physical education program looks like and should be."
Wells said Griffith exemplifies the characteristics of a true advocate for physical education. He said her attitude also permeates throughout the physical education and health department, which he said is filled with people with the "same dedication and same focus."
"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."