Looking Back On #PEInstitute13

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the National PE Institute in Asheville, North Carolina as a keynote and presenter.

Before I go on here, I’d like you to know that I was not asked to write this post, nor was I paid to. I wanted to write this post because I truly feel that my time in North Carolina was one of the most amazing professional development opportunities I have ever experienced, and I wanted to share with you some of the people that made it so.

Three Wise Men

Although there was an incredible amount of knowledgeable, passionate physical educators at the National PE Institute, three men really stood out and had a huge impact on me while I was there.

Larry McDonald
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I didn’t know (or even know of) Mac before going to this year’s NPEI. On the first night I got there, a bunch of teachers/keynotes and I were sitting at the bar (I’d call it a lounge, but who would I be kidding here?) when Mac showed up. Everyone’s face seemed to light up when he joined us. At first I thought the reason was obvious: Mac is really funny. He had everyone laughing within seconds of his arrival.

As I got to know Mac throughout the week, I started to realize what a PE champion the man is and his absolute passion for teaching kids physical education (he’ll like how I worded that). On the Thursday night (my last night in NC), Mac invited me over to his villa for some beers. What started off as a couple of Buds (get it?) on the patio turned into one of the most insightful conversations I have ever had on physical education.

Mac taught me how subtle changes in the way you talk to and instruct kids can have a huge impact on the way they perceive their success in physical education. He gave me tips on how to word the rules of a game so that students don’t have to experience failure and can experience as many levels of success as they can. If ever you’ve heard me talk, you’ll know that I tend to talk really fast and I’m not always as careful about the words I use when I get going. Mac’s advice has already made me more mindful of my choice of words and has helped me slow down.

All in all, Mac shared knowledge with me that could only be acquired after a lifetime of teaching PE and I’m so grateful that I got spend time with him throughout the week.

Jim Rich
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When I got to Asheville, I was told that I would be sharing a villa with someone named Jim Rich. I was also told that I should talk to Mr Rich about adapted physical education, since he had an amazing amount of experience in that field.

Jim showed up to the UNC Asheville venue a little after I got there. He greeted me with a hug and started telling me a little about North Carolina. Jim started asking me about my teaching experience and, when I mentioned I had done some work in adapted aquatics, that’s when I first saw it.

See, I do this thing when I get talking about PE where I “zone in”. Simply put, it’s when my passion for teaching takes over my speech and I start speaking fast because I’m so excited to be talking about PE. It’s really a great feeling.

That being said, one of my biggest fears is that, one day, my passion for physical education will fade and I won’t “zone in” anymore. But here I was talking to Jim Rich and, as soon as I mentioned adapted physical education, the man, who has been involved with PE for longer than I have been alive, zoned right in. His face became serious, the speed at which he spoke picked up (well, at least by southern standards), and he started sharing an incredible amount of knowledge.

These chats with Jim (which took place anywhere between 6am and 9pm throughout the week) were inspiring not only because they provided so much insight into high quality adapted physical education practices, but also because they proved that you can keep your passion burning for a whole career without it ever burning out.

Artie Kamiya
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The year I launched (2010), I received a friend request on Facebook from someone named Artie Kamiya. When I checked out his profile a bit, I discovered that he was the man behind Great Activities Publishing. I quickly accepted his friend request mainly because I thought it was so cool that someone other than my mom had checked out my site.

Fast forward to 2011. I get an email from Artie saying he would like to discuss a few things. At this point, I’m assuming he would like to hire me for his company. I write back and we set a phone call meeting.

I went into that call fully expecting some kind of pitch. What actually happened was an hour long conversation on all things PE. Not once did Artie talk about Great Activities or anything like that. He just wanted to talk about physical education.

Later on that year, Artie called me and asked if I would be interested in being a presenter at a new conference he was putting together called the National PE Institute. Sadly, the timing just didn’t work out and I had to turn down his offer. I remember kicking myself for not saying yes, thinking that it was an opportunity I wouldn’t get again. However, as soon as the first NPEI was done, I got an email from Artie asking me if I would like to keynote and present at the 2013 National PE Institute. For obvious reasons, I said yes.

When I landed in North Carolina, I was greeted by Artie at the airport. I got to go have lunch with the man (and his wife) who had put this whole thing together.

Over the course of the week, I got to hear more about this very calm, polite man. I heard stories from teachers who, with Artie’s help, had received and done amazing things with PEP grants. I heard how Artie had been putting on conferences for years now and how his focus was always on promoting high quality physical education.

I’m not going to lie: I was pretty skeptical about why Artie was being so nice to me this whole time. At one point in the week, Artie and I were talking with some other teachers and I passed a comment jokingly about how Artie just wanted me to move to the US to teach there. “No,” he said with a dead serious look on his face, “I just want you to keep teaching physical education. We need more people like you.”

Artie cares about PE and he works really hard to make sure as many kids as possible are getting the world class physical education that they deserve. I’m so grateful for everything he does.

Other Amazing Physical Educators… On Twitter

I met so many incredible physical educators at this year’s, it would be hard to list them all here. Still, I figured I’d give it a shot. So here are some of the most awesome people I met at #PEInstitute13 who are also on Twitter (although some of them are new to the platform… let’s give them a follow and get them tweeting!):

Dr Helena Baert (@helenabaert)

Talk to Helena about: Technology in #physed

Aaron Hart (@nyaaronhart)

Talk to Aaron about: Creating music-based stations in #physed

Judy LoBianco (@jlobianc)

Talk to Judy about: Advocacy in #physed (and being the next American Idol)

Michele Rusnak (@michelerusnak)

Talk to Michele about: Austin Independent School District #physed Resources

Charla Parker (@CharlaParker)

Talk to Charla about: Sport Education

Miriam Kenyon (@mimikenyon)

Talk to Miriam about: Teacher accountability systems in DC

Kristy Rodgers (@kristy_rodgers)

Talk to Kristy about: Adapted Physical Education

Douglas Ryne (@ColoradoCubby23)

Teaching in Colorado, Sport Education, and the Cubs

Mike Smith (@msmitty59)

Talk to Mike about: Technology in #PhysEd

Shona Moeller (@msmoeller)

Talk to Shona about: Flipped Classroom

John Smith (@JohnSmithPE)

Talk to John about: Coaching

Even More Amazing Physical Educators… Who Are Not On Twitter

Although I did my very best to get everyone at the National PE Institute to sign up for Twitter, I think we can all understand that not everyone will feel the need to start tweeting. However, that does not mean that they do not have incredible things to say and share. If ever you get a chance to chat with any of the following amazing teachers, don’t pass it up!

Larry Satchwell (Newton County Schools, GA)
Talk to Larry about: A Balanced PE Curriculum and being incredibly passionate about what you do.

Dr Stevie Chepko (South Carolina)
Talk to Stevie about: Sport skill development

Brian Dauenhauer (University of Northern Colorado)
Talk to Brian about: Collecting and using data in #PhysEd

Jim DeLine (Texas)
Talk to Jim about: Anything. Jim is a passionate physical educator and is absolutely hilarious.

Closing thoughts

I’m so grateful that I was able to attend and speak at this year’s National PE Institute. The people I met there were amazing and I truly feel that my experience there has helped me become a better teacher. The NPEI was easily one of the best professional development opportunities I ever got to be a part of, and I can’t wait until next year’s edition.

Quick question: What was the best PD event you ever attended and why? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!


Joey Feith is the founder of He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.