When you’re in a typical classroom, you’re expected to exercise your mind. In Holly Hannum Ulland’s (76) class, your body will also be asked to pay attention.Ulland has been an instructor at Dr. Joyanne D. Miller Elementary School in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., for the past 36 years, but it’s what she’s done in her school to promote fitness and physical activity among her students helped her become one of the Grand Prize Winners of the 2011-12 Atlanticare Healthy Educator Award.It was four years ago that Ulland began having kids in her homeroom and math classes bring their own stabilization exercise balls to swap out for their chairs as a fun way to keep their bodies active during class. Later she started organizing “fit walks,” where kids in her class meet an hour before school starts to hike the stairs, gym, cafeteria and hallways of the school to get their blood pumping before starting the day.“I just got concerned. I think technology is a wonderful thing, but as a result of technology, a lot of our kids are overweight – some to the point of obesity,” Ulland said. “I wanted to pass my love of being healthy on to my students.”Last year, Ulland was nominated for the AtlantiCare Healthy Educator Award, which recognizes educators’ outstanding efforts to promote wellness, healthy living, good nutrition and the importance of physical activity to his or her students and colleagues. She was a 2010-11 runner-up before receiving the 2011-12 grand prize, which included a cash donation from AtlantiCare to fund her school’s health and fitness initiatives. For Ulland, the recognition of this award is an honor, but it doesn’t compare to knowing she’s set an example for how other teachers can make fitness a priority for their students.“I think a lot of times, kids learn best through modeling and I’m just modeling a healthier choice,” Ulland said. “I’m just hoping some of the young teachers see some of the things I’m doing and when I retire, they pick it up and pass it on.”
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