NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – When the coronavirus pandemic made schools go virtual across Hampton Roads, the concerns surrounding students’ social and mental well being were obvious. Less time with peers, more time in front of a computer and distractions at home were on the minds of educators everywhere. Also a concern for physical education teachers was students’ activity and exercise. Being at home, it would be easy to be a little less motivated to get active each day.

Susan McAuliffe, an adaptive physical education teacher for 22 years in Newport News, was faced with the task of helping her students get active from home.

“Adaptive PE is for students who are in special education programs and maybe have some special needs… sometimes they have a orthopedic disabilities that prohibit participation in general PE and it gives them a chance for the students to catch up with their peers,” McAuliffe explained.

With a few more obstacles to face than the general student population, McAuliffe immediately went to work to ensure her students had access to a virtual program to help them stay as consistent as possible in their routine.

But more important than calories being burned, McAuliffe knows her job is to help introduce her students to activities they can enjoy forever that help them maintain a positive attitude about a healthy, active lifestyle. “So many people my age have told me they don’t like exercise and they can trace it back to a bad experience they had with a PE teacher in elementary or middle school,” McAuliffe shared. “We want them to be active and enjoy being active for their entire life.”

Another obstacle McAuliffe faced on top of virtual learning was access to equipment for her students to use while at home. Susan once again stepped up to the plate and found a solution. She applied for the “Donors Choose” grant. Through this process, educators can present an idea with what they would do with extra funds if they came available. Before she knew it, a local business donated enough money that allowed her to give her students the resources they needed. Some friends and family also contributed personal donations.

“It enabled me to put together bags (with equipment) and take them to my students’ homes… I really looked forward to that because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen their faces… being able to see their sweet faces and wave, even through the mask; it was just nice and it kind of made their day.”