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Are you fitter than a 5th grader?


Fitter than a 5th grader group photo

On a recent autumn day, Professor Chris Willer and his Physical Education majors (plus Sport and Exercise Science majors) brought a group of fifth graders from Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn to campus for Fitter Than A Fifth Grader – a day full of obstacle courses, fitness games, teamwork, and learning. This annual community-based learning opportunity turns SJC students into teachers, offering a truly hands-on learning opportunity in a degree program that focuses on whole-body health.

Bethany Fox ’17, Saint Dom’s physical education teacher, was a Health and Wellness Promotion graduate from Saint Joe’s. A beneficiary of an SJC education, she is now giving back to our community by working with Professor Willer to bring college and elementary students together.

“I graduated from Saint Joe’s in 2017 and started at Saint Dominic Academy about a year after that. For a while I was considering working in a hospital or doctors office and working on the clinical side of health and wellness. Ultimately, I found education to be a more interesting career path. If I can take my passion and use it to motivate kids to be healthier, and really make an impact and difference in their lives, that’s the most fulfilling job to me. I get so excited to come to work every day and see the kids, try new things, and create strategies that grow this program and make it stand out,” said Fox.

John Hughes ‘23 was one of the senior Phys Ed majors helping to run the event. His commitment to teaching and health is personal.

“After considering a career in physical therapy, I eventually landed on physical education,” said Hughes. “I have a respiratory disease called cystic fibrosis, so being active has been mandatory for me my entire life to ensure that I stay healthy. Being able to maintain an active lifestyle and intertwine that lifestyle with my career while helping others was a big part of the decision to pursue a career in physical education. My mom is also a teacher, so I think that I got the teaching genes from her. I really enjoy teaching kids, and can’t wait to continue helping my students find what their passion is. My goal in teaching is to make all of my students see that they’re unique, and that unique is good.”

The shouts of fifth graders across the Saint Joe’s campus breathes new life into the idea of community-based learning. Every student there ended the day a little fitter.