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Students skate for success
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Physical education took on a little twist at Heard Mixon Elementary School the past few weeks as students got the chance to learn the classic skill of roller skating. P.E. teacher Donna Thompson said she got the idea from a longtime DeKalb County teacher who said it was the best programs she had run in her 27-year career.

"It's a good workout but also something they can carry over to other aspects on their life," Thompson said Tuesday. "A lot of things you can do you have to have money for, but skates don't cost a lot of money and most children can afford them and it's something that once they're exposed to, they can carry on."

Thompson heard about the idea while meeting with other Title 1 school teachers through the HealthMPowers program. She then rented skates, wrist guards and helmets from Skatetime. The cost was $8 per students, though some parents helped pay for other students, while the school used some funds from its Box Tops for Education program.

"A lot of them have never skated before; they were really scared and nervous about it. I've had so many tell me now that they would be comfortable going to a skate rink," Thompson said. "One little girl told me she went to a birthday party at a skating rink last week and she said she felt really good about skating because she had been doing it for two weeks."

For fourth-grader Amberlee Bishop, 9, it was her first time on four-wheels. She said it was harder to roller skate on carpet, but she had fun trying.

"My favorite part was skating with my friends," Amberlee said. "I like being able to roll because you can't roll on your regular feet."

For Raquis Holmes, 9, who said he's been skating since he was 3, the class was a chance to brush up on his skills. His favorite part was "trying to do it a different way," he said.

"I think the excitement in the kids (was my favorite part). They were really, really excited about it, because it was something new, something different," said Thompson, who noted teaching skating was like teaching jump rope. "One of my favorite things to teach is jump rope, because they don't get it (at first), but when they do get it they get it and it's so exciting."

Thompson said Heard Mixon Principal Marquita Wilkins is supportive of efforts to add variety to the curriculum.

"Ms. Thompson understands that physical education is a component of educating the whole child. She is always thoughtful when deciding to "try something new." I'm in total support of her efforts because she works diligently to motivate our students to enjoy P.E. She is extremely compassionate about her profession and the health of our Superstars," Wilkins said. "While teachers are required to teach the intended curriculum, I encourage them to add their own creativity to the learning."

Fourth-grade teacher Yolanda Watterson said the children have loved the skating program, and she's seen the benefit too.

"I feel like we have given them another tool to help them turn off the electronics and get moving," she said in an email.

Thompson will ask parents if they want to do the program next year, and she hopes they'll say yes.

"(This is) exposure for a lifetime," she said. "That's what I feel P.E. is about - offering them a lot of opportunities to see a lot of different things and have them find something they like that they can do for the rest of their lives."