A Physical Educator Turns 60

by SPARK


By Paul Rosengard – SPARK Godfather

If you haven’t already heard, I celebrated my 60th birthday back in January.  And after 36 years in education – PHYSICAL education that is – I decided to hang up my sneakers.  This blog article gives me an opportunity to share a few lessons learned and thank a few of the MANY people who I’ve been so fortunate to meet along the way…

As far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a coach.  I played sports and loved em’ all.  And although I played a little baseball in college, it was clear I was not going to be an athlete at that level.  After all, I was small – but I was slow…

So after my senior year in high school, I started coaching youth teams in football and basketball — and loved it.  At SDSU, I majored in physical education and continued down the teaching and coaching path.  I did my student teaching at San Pasqual High because they had one of the best football coaches in the county, Bob Woodhouse, and I wanted to learn from him and his great staff.  One day I asked Bob what he recommended I study to become a better football coach and he said, “Just one book.  The Art of War by Sun Tzu.”  He gave me my first copy and it helped me think strategically the rest of my life.  I coached football and basketball at San Pasqual and both teams did really well.  In football we lost the CIF championship game (I coached Freshman but scouted for the varsity) and in basketball I worked with Art Warren and our basketball team went to the CIF quarterfinals.

My next student teaching assignment brought me to Crawford High and there I coached Tennis (spring semester) with Jim Sams – who was the school’s basketball coach too.  Both of my student teaching experiences – San Pasqual and Crawford — were great and solidified my career choice.  Teaching physical education and coaching was my passion.  I was doing football and basketball camps during the summers and hanging around a lot of successful veteran coaches – picking their minds and learning the tricks of the trade.  I also had a fantastic Professor in the School of Education, Dr. Paul Erickson.  Paul helped me understand what it really meant to be a teacher and why preparation was so important.

My first full time teaching job came in 1979 in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.  This wasn’t the high school level I wanted to continue at but it was a full time job in one of the best K-8 school districts in the country – and there were no openings anywhere for a PE teacher.  The economy was bad and teaching jobs were almost impossible to find.  I was very lucky and jumped at the opportunity to teach and live in a beautiful area.  I stayed at RSF for 11 years and we had an award winning PE and athletic program.  Our football and basketball teams were really high level and won frequent championships competing with other junior highs many times our size.

As time went on I felt I had done all I could at little RSF and was ready for a new challenge.  I learned of an opening at my alma mater, SDSU.  It was for a head teacher in a new research study called, Project SPARK, and I was intrigued.  In August 1990, I was very fortunate to be offered the position and accepted.  Project SPARK gave me the opportunity to write physical education curriculum and develop resources, lead professional development for teachers, and learn how to provide on-site consultation to schools and staff.  After 5 years, the evaluation data we collected showed what we wrote and applied actually worked, so we thought we’d try and move the research project into a dissemination phase.  I led that effort and SPARK became independent of grant funding in 1994 and started to grow.

While working on SPARK full time, I enjoyed learning from a variety of exciting diversions.  I was the Deputy Director of the CA Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, (big thanks to super leader John Cates), taught future teachers how to teach physical education at UCSD for 11 years, spent a few years as a Leader on the CA State Subject Matter Project for Physical and Health Education, wrote the NikeGO! and Let Me Play curriculum for those projects, and served on a number of Boards.

Over time we continued to do many more research and special projects (M-SPAN, Pathways, TAAG, OPI, POPI, to mention a few) that contributed to the SPARK knowledge base.  Today, SPARK consists of 13 different programs that span Early Childhood to University and adult levels.  I’m so grateful to SPARK for giving me the opportunity to make an impact on a much bigger scale, and to travel and see parts of the U.S. I would have never been to otherwise.  Through SPARK, we’ve been able to impact over 100,000 teachers around the world, and literally millions of students.  Plus, I think we really have put a dent in the PE universe with our advocacy, promotion of MVPA, and support for quality physical education, taught by trained and credentialed physical educators, to ALL students, every day.

Drs. Jim Sallis and Thom McKenzie, the original grantees and Investigators have been my mentors all along the way.  Along with Jim and Thom, SPARK has been a true all-star team of outstanding educators, trainers, and staff, all committed to providing the BEST materials and services to physical educators and physical activity instructors.  I’m excited to pass the baton to the next generation and know they will serve SPARK proudly!  Thanks in advance to current SPARK leaders, Kecia Carrasco, Kymm Ballard, Leticia Gonzalez, Katie Fenton, Jeff Mushkin and Christine Davis for their expertise and commitment to SPARK.

Paul Erickson, Jim Sallis, and Thom McKenzie are my top 3 mentors (who are yours?).  But there have been so many more terrific people who I’ve learned from along the way, far too many to mention, and I’m very grateful!

As I transition away from full time SPARK, I’m looking forward to spending more quality time with Wendy, Scout, and my friends.

I know, THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

– Paul

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