Durham Public Schools adapted physical education teacher Lara Brickhouse was named the Southern District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators.
As the Southern District winner, Brickhouse represents 13 states from Virginia to Texas and is being recognized for outstanding teaching performance all school levels and the ability to motivate today’s youth to participate in a lifetime of physical activity. Brickhouse works with nine schools within Durham: Little River School, E.K. Powe, Hope Valley, Bethesda and Eno Valley elementary schools; Lucas and Lowe’s Grove middle schools; and Northern and Riverside high schools.
Each day is an adventure for students in her class. One of her favorite things to do is teach students an activity or sport they have never attempted or even heard of.
“My aim is to establish and maintain a learning environment that is positive, supportive, nurturing, inclusive and above all else, fun!” says Brickhouse.
Brickhouse prides herself on the ability to think outside of the box and strongly encourages fellow educators to do the same. She spends a lot of time devoted to understanding how each student communicates his/her wants and needs and how each student learns.
“Adapted PE is so much more than basic skill-building with modified equipment and IEP goals. It’s a way of life. It’s a way for students to develop social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills needed to lead healthy, safe, and successful lives across all settings,” said Brickhouse. “Students are praised for mini victories and classroom teachers and parents are encouraged to celebrate these victories to help build students’ confidence!”
To help offset program costs, Brickhouse applies for grants and has been awarded 11 financial grants related to APE. The funds have assisted in purchasing equipment, implementing recreation and leisure programs, community-based opportunities, and more.
“What stands out about Lara is her dedication,” says Katheryne Rhys Myrick Potts, a behavioral consultant and colleague. “She spent countless hours researching and observing APE programs to create a service-based program that led to hiring three full-time APE teachers. Because of Lara, students with disabilities have been taught aquatics, bicycle safety and have been introduced to a variety of vocational skills.”
Brickhouse is one of three teachers who will now vie for the distinguished honor of National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year. The winner of the award will be announced on Friday, March 17 at the SHAPE America’s National Convention & Expo in Boston.
She has been recognized as the NCAAHPERD-SM APE Teacher of the Year and is heavily involved in the organization as a convention presenter.
Brickhouse received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education and APE from East Carolina University, respectively.