Culver Elementary School in Niles is one of only 63 Illinois schools to win the 2017 Blue Ribbon award from the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance for its outstanding physical education program. In making the decision, the IAHPERD Blue Ribbon committee cited the Culver P.E. program’s quality and commitment to state and national standards in physical education.
In a letter to Culver P.E. teacher Diana Buhler, IAHPERD Blue Ribbon chair Maureen Fournier wrote: “This award is very exciting, not only because you have met the criteria, but because historically you will be recognized in an elite group of schools and educators in the State of Illinois. This means you will help set the tone for the future of physical education in the state. You should be very proud of your program.”
The P.E. Blue Ribbon P.E. is awarded for five years. To qualify, school districts must offer P.E. five days a week, have a comprehensive written curriculum, administer written assessments and show continual improvement.
Last year, the Culver P.E. team completed an application and put together a portfolio that included the curriculum, assessments, photos and program highlights. In spring 2017, the IAHPERD Blue Ribbon Committee came to the school to observe classes and interview the superintendent, principal, teachers, school board members, former and current students, and parents.
“They look for new and innovative ideas,” Buhler said.
The Culver program certainly offers that. Along with multiple team sports, students at Culver have the opportunity to golf, practice yoga, go rock climbing and increase their physical fitness in the school’s state-of-the-art spin lab. While spinning, students use Polar heart-rate straps to monitor and track their fitness goals.
Culver School has received the Blue Ribbon award three times in the past eight years. Why has the program been so successful?
“We have a thorough curriculum, with clear goals and an authentic variety of assessments,” Buhler said. She added that the program is evaluated on the qualifications of its teachers — all of whom have master’s degrees — as well as the safety of its facilities.
Besides Buhler, the other P.E. teachers at the school are Tony Palazzolo and Sarah DeCicco.
“Our physical education department is a highly effective team of caring educators dedicated to providing students innovative and engaging educational opportunities,” Niles School District 71 Supt. John Kosirog said. “The P.E. team seamlessly weaves lessons on nutrition, fitness and mental health into daily routines. The teachers work tirelessly to meet the mental, physical, social and emotional needs of every child in pre-K through eighth grade.”
“We are always working to improve the program, and the kids enjoy it,” Buhler said.