There's no "I" in TEAMMATES — but there certainly is a lot more participation now in gym class at the high school because of it.
Stow-Munroe Falls High School teachers Tim Viscuso and Peggy Peters noticed that in phys ed classes not everyone had the chance to showcase their individual abilities.
Classes were divided — think the first and last picked student for the dodge ball team.
To combat this, the teachers decided to turn routine physical education instruction into a new form of learning through TEAMMATES where students of all abilities work together, relying on each other to bring out the best of everyone’s abilities.
"Mrs. Peters and I both participated in sports as kids and have a coaching background. We understand that on a team there are many different types of people, but when you put on that jersey you are on the same team — there is a bond that is special; differences are nonexistent. You respect your teammates and together you work for a common goal," said Viscuso.
There's always various levels of ability, but Viscuso said every role is important.
"Each TEAMMATE has an important role — whether you run the touchdown, block for the touchdown or cheer for the touchdown is just as important as the next," he said.
The teachers wanted the students in their classes to feel the same way, so they formed TEAMMATES.
“During a sporting activity in class, I felt like few people were actually enjoying the activity. The students with disabilities might experience fear of physical injury, the game moving at a pace much too fast for them to process, being accidently injured, not being included, etc.," said Viscuso.
Often the teachers said they would notice some students would not participate in the game or could not contribute because no one would pass them the ball.
“I thought that it would be awesome if we could have a class where typical high school students who enjoyed working with students who have a disability could have their own physical education class,” he said.
Peters soon made the decision to pursue the concept of a safe physical education environment where all students could actively participate in a variety of social, emotional and physical learning experiences.
"Sometimes a modification to equipment is required," said Viscuso. "For example, a balloon may be substituted for a shuttlecock, a beach ball may be substituted for volleyball or a tee may be used in place of a student pitching in baseball."
The relationship between the students continues on and off the court, so-to-say.
“It makes our day when we see our students saying 'Hi' in the hallways to each other, getting pictures with each other at school dances or seeing each other at athletic events. When they all are laughing and smiling and enjoying each other’s company, we all win,” he said.