There is a small movement happening at Oakdale Elementary Schools.
‘Small’ as in the physical stature of its participants, yet big in the scope of the overall task. The ‘movement’ is undeniably to the credit of Oakdale High School varsity baseball assistant coach Joe Peterson, who is the mastermind behind the ‘Mustangs Coaching Mustangs’ Physical Education program.
“I have a passion for kids,” Coach Peterson stated.
Peterson’s wife, Lisa Peterson, happens to be an elementary school teacher, currently with Sierra View Elementary School. According to the coach, it was during her previous tenure at Fair Oaks that he became an active volunteer in her classroom.
“I loved to read to the kids,” he shared. “When Lisa transferred to Sierra View, I would read and then go out to do PE with the kids.”
The addition of his PE involvement at Sierra View caught the attention of other first grade teachers.
“Myself and the other three first grade teachers applied some pressure to Lisa to coerce Joe into coaching all of the first grade kids,” Kim West of Sierra View shared of having additional classes join in at the school.
‘Coach Joe’ obliged and his PE group there went from 20 to 100 (with the assistance of the teachers) in August of 2007.
Following the success of the Sierra View program and a few guest visits to other campuses, Peterson came up with the idea for Mustangs Coaching Mustangs.
“I actually borrowed the name from John Quaccia. I heard him use it in a speech. When I thought of this program, I thought that’s what this is,” Peterson said.
The 2011-2012 school year is the first year that all elementary school campuses in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District are participating in the program. Currently the group works with first through third students, unless the teacher opts out.
“Some teachers like to run their own PE,” Peterson said, “and that’s perfectly fine. My goal is to get them all moving. Physical education is the mind controlling your body and they (kids) love it.”
According to the coach, all four school sites have been both receptive and appreciative of the program and the senior coaches. He also noted the help of District office personnel Marc Malone, Terri Taylor and Barbara Shook as well as OHS Assistant Principal Diana Crofts as being instrumental in rolling the program out to all elementary sites.
The ‘Mustang’ portion comes in the way of high school seniors: Andy Morris, Kaila Olson, Melissa (Missy) Rivera and Shelby Reali, all of whom are enrolled in a sixth period class under the category of Elementary Teacher’s Aide.
“They are each assigned a school,” Peterson said. “I give them each a schedule and it is their responsibility to get to the schools to lead their groups.”
“I’m supportive of Joe’s program for two reasons,” Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent Marc Malone stated. “One, it does promote an active lifestyle and we need to promote that now more than ever before.”
Malone went on to share that in this day and age of computers, video games and varying other technological devices, this is becoming a sedentary generation, so encouraging movement is critical.
“The second thing I love about this program is the aspect of mentoring,” he continued. “Older students mentoring younger students, has an impact. This type of mentoring has a tendency to have a lasting aspect.
“It’s good not only for the little kids but the older kids as well.”
As testament to that Andy Morris said, “The smiles on the little kids faces, is the best part. This program gives them the opportunity to hang out and have fun.”
“I loved PE when I was in elementary school,” Melissa Rivera shared, “so why not teach it to kids?
“Some take to it right away,” she continued, “but the challenge I had not thought about were the ones that were not active. Now they’re all getting into it.”
Coach Joe and his Mustangs shared the overall goal is to get the students moving, keep them engaged and make it fun. Each of them pointed out that a favorite activity, regardless of site, are the ‘Hoorays’ that are a way to wrap up the lesson for the day.
“At the end we do the hoorays, which is their favorite part,” Shelby Reali said.
“Each of them (High School helpers) has a contract with an elementary school. It’s a commitment,” Peterson said. “The kids miss them when they are not there.”
“Being a role model for those little kids is really rewarding,” Shelby added.
Demonstrating a proactive role in the pilot program, Melissa Rivera suggested that local longtime soccer coach Shannon Paboojian might be willing to also come out and work with the kids on soccer skills.
“I spoke to Shannon and he was excited to help,” Peterson said.
Paboojian (also a volunteer) travels to each of the four school sites once a week and works with the students on basic soccer skills.
“Mr. Paboojian has donated many an afternoon at Sierra View to focus on soccer,” West noted. “This specific new intervention has put a new perspective on the concept of ‘gross motor skills.’ Wow, what a few structured, guided skills practice can offer to the teacher for that report card effort grade.”
Paboojian shared that he has enjoyed working with the young students.
“It’s really been a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m happy to do it.”
Paboojian also praised the Oakdale students for their coordination and attentiveness at such a young age.
“It’s really impressive,” he said of the 60-plus students he directs on any given school visit.
“We really need more adult helpers,” Peterson said, adding that a volunteer need not have a sport specialty, but rather a willingness to show up for a half an hour and just help.
“I mean, I’m not really a teacher,” Peterson explained. “I’m a PE guy, but when I walk on campus and hear ‘Coach Joe, Coach Joe!’ I get chills just thinking about it.
“It’s very rewarding.”
Magnolia Elementary Principal Julie Minabe added her voice to the chorus of supporters.
“I am so happy that Magnolia Elementary School is able to be included in this program,” Minabe shared. “It gives our students the opportunity to work on skill-building, rather than just playing familiar games at PE time.”
As for the students on the other side of the coaching line, a few of Lori Guyll’s first grade students from Cloverland Elementary had these thoughts to offer:
“I like it when Coach teaches us to do all kinds of exercises,” Vince Peltier said.
“I like the racing because I like to run really fast,” Griffin Paulus stated.
“I like doing jumping jacks and racing. Coach Joe is very nice,” Lanie Arcos added.
“Our students really look forward to seeing the students who help teach the program,” Stacey Aprile, Principal of Fair Oaks, said. “The students are positive, helpful and they are excellent role models. They also make every activity fun.”
“Joe is very high energy,” Marc Malone summarized. “He truly cares for our students. He saw this as an opportunity to impact the schools. It certainly helps our teachers, to have him and the Mustangs lead them (the students) through that part of the day.”