Jack Popper, Granby Elementary School physical education teacher, was recently named the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Central North Zone’s aquatics teacher of the year.
The regional honor now means that Popper is in the running for a statewide aquatics award. Beyond the recognition, Popper said he is simply thankful to have the opportunity to guide Fulton City School District children through an instructional aquatics program and to see them progress with physical abilities and persevere through any difficulties.
“We stress lifetime fitness and giving them more experiences, such as having a pool to utilize has been helpful,” he said. “I really enjoy interacting with the kids, see them develop and enjoy their time with me.”
Every FCSD fourth-grader sees Popper weekly with their class for aquatic lessons in stroke progression, water safety and introduction to water games. At Granby Elementary, both fifth- and sixth-graders have additional opportunities to use the pool for select physical education units with Popper. In his fourth year at Granby, he said it’s been rewarding to see student skill sets improve. He credited several students with trying water activities, especially after some never having had aquatics instruction before.
At the end of each school year, Popper also educates each student in grades kindergarten through three about water safety. That is a perfect time, he said, prior to students enjoying summer and swim activities.
He has been at Granby for four years, and prior to that taught health at G. Ray Bodley High School. Popper has also coached various teams throughout the district. A physical education/health teacher for the past 11 years, Popper said he knew he wanted to join the profession at age 16 when he was employed as a water safety instructor and saw the value in educating others.
Support from his colleagues and administrators helped shape him into the physical education teacher he is today, he said. He also credited his wife, Chrissy, for some of his success because as a PE teacher too, she has provided additional support and ideas for instruction.
Popper received his undergraduate degree in physical education and master’s degree in health from SUNY Cortland and is in process of obtaining a Certificate of Advanced Study through LeMoyne College’s CNYLDP program.