One does not have to know Dana Henry to feel the impact she has had on the physical activity and overall health of Lake Grove Elementary School students, staff, parents, and community. High-energy and student-centered, this Federal Way, WA, health and physical education specialist has a passion for providing quality physical education and promoting physical activity as well as her ability to create inclusive, active school environments that extend far beyond the gymnasium.
Dana’s commitment to cultivating active students was recently announced and celebrated when she was named the2017 recipient of the Let’s Move! Active Schools Outstanding Physical Activity Leader (PAL) Award. She received the honor on March 16 at the 2017 SHAPE America National Convention & Expo in Boston.
The Outstanding PAL Award recognizes an individual who exemplifies leadership within the PAL Learning System, embodies the Let’s Move! Active Schools spirit, and champions a comprehensive school physical activity program within his or her respective community. Dana’s colleagues enthusiastically attest to how she more than meets those qualifications.
“Dana is a leader-champion, visionary thinker, and strong team member,” says Lisa Rakoz, program supervisor for the Healthiest Next Generation at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington state. “She challenges educators to ‘think beyond’ the physical education classroom by engaging parents/guardians, staff and law enforcement to create seamless ways to keep students moving throughout the day.”
A physical education teacher at Lake Grove for more than 20 years, Dana recognized the need for creating after-school programs and activities that better resonated with — and addressed the needs of — her school’s increasingly diverse and largely low-income student body.
“After attending the PAL training, I decided I was uniquely positioned to be the primary advocate and champion for helping our school better support students and staff in the areas of physical education and physical activity,” says Dana. “But I also knew this needed to be a team effort so our students, staff, and community members had a voice in the program, and to ensure the program was sustainable. Our school formed a PAL team and used the Let’s Move! Active Schools Assessment to evaluate the activity levels and health of our school and to form an action plan.”
For Dana, that means “meeting people where they are at” and taking it from there. Not only do students learn about health, fitness, and sports in their daily physical education lessons, they are engaged throughout the day and after school in a number of free activities coordinated by Dana and her colleagues — be it the Mighty Milers running program, Kids Cook with Heart cooking club, UNICEF Kid Power, and more. To promote active learning in the classroom, Dana also provides G.Y.M.B.A.G.s (Get Youth Moving – Brain Activity Gear) to all of the school’s teachers.
“I’m so impressed with Dana’s commitment to sharing new and exciting ways for all of us to find perspective around staying healthy,” says Patty Samora, a school-family liaison. “Her ability to create, organize, and present these fun activities is what sets her apart.”
“More than me receiving this award, it’s my school,” says Dana. “Everybody here really buys into and supports kids being active and moving throughout the day. Our staff is amazing! Be it showing up at a weekend jamboree or organizing a cheerleading squad for our flag football team, they are always involved and doing something. It truly is a team effort.”