Purchase photos

School's FHSU team a win-win

5/17/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

It isn't often Jay Sanders is one of the taller people in the crowd.

But youngsters at Washington Elementary School in Hays were looking up to the 5-foot, 8-inch Fort Hays State University baseball player -- in more ways than one -- on their school playground last week.

Those same grade schoolers nearly hurt their necks looking up to Sanders' partner, 6-foot-3 Grant Brown, a tight end for the Tiger football team.

Those student-athletes appeared to be having as much fun as the youngsters on a pleasant spring afternoon and were good sports about getting a little wet on the school's annual end-of-the-year field day.

Brown, student teaching under physical education instructor Mark Watts, who teaches at Washington and O'Loughlin elementary schools, was just doing something to which he has become accustomed.

But Sanders was getting some extra credit for his elementary physical education curriculum class taught by Joyce Ellis, assistant professor in FHSU's health and human performance department.

Helping with field day is an extension of a Friday P.E. program when FHSU students come to Washington, something Ellis and Watts collaborated on along with Washington Principal Allen Park when the school's longtime P.E. teacher, Jeanie Rucker, retired.

Watts was looking for a way to fill that void for his students. Ellis was looking for her students to get some hands-on opportunities with the real thing.

"We do micro teachings in class, but it's not the same," Ellis said. "Our college students don't act at all like real kids do. So this is good for them, good for everybody involved."

Washington Principal Allen Park agreed.

"We have other partnerships with Fort Hays," Park said, naming an after-school reading program for one. "This is a neat opportunity to be able to do with another department.

"The kids look up to (the college students)," he added. "Caring adults with children; it's a win-win for everyone."

That opportunity isn't lost on the young adults in the program, either.

"Kids need to get outside and be active," said Brown, who will graduate Saturday from FHSU and will begin work on a master's degree there in the fall. "And it's good for (FHSU) students to learn what it's like teaching kids."

"It's awesome," said Sanders, a graduate of Hays High School who will graduate from FHSU next May, then look for a job teaching P.E. "For us becoming P.E. teachers, we get to learn first-hand how to deal with kids."

Brown, who grew up in Glen Elder and graduated from Beloit High School, said this last semester student teaching under Watts was one of the highlights of his college career.

"I learned more the first day, the first week for sure, from (Watts) than I did probably in all my classes," said Brown, who also wants to teach P.E. and become an athletic director someday. "He's been here 30 years or so ... and so much experience. It's been great."