Walking down the hall with Mr. Frank Blair, one feels as though they’re with a celebrity. Students shout his name from across the cafeteria, eager to greet their beloved eighth-grade outdoor education teacher. In fact, Mr. Blair is somewhat of a celebrity in the Owasso community: his principal, Mr. Cooper, explained that students wait for years to take Mr. Blair’s class, and every year the school has more student requests for the course than they can enroll.
When I visited Mr. Blair’s class, he led me carefully up a steep staircase that deposited us just above the gym. Assuming I was about to walk into some kind of attic, my jaw dropped when I saw all that the Owasso team furnished for their students in this past-storage space. Impressive bows and buckets of arrows lined the back of the archery classroom; at the front stood five large targets. Soon, students trickled in, ready to begin their practice for the day. Archery is just one of many sports Mr. Blair introduces to his students. His fundamental belief: we have a responsibility and a joy to expose our students to a vast array of subjects, affording them the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of possible careers and hobbies. In doing this, Mr. Blair meets his students where they are, making physical education standards relevant and engaging.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗿𝗲𝘄 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗢𝘂𝘁𝗱𝗼𝗼𝗿 𝗘𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺?
Before this class, I taught PE. While I was teaching that course, I incorporated certain aspects of what we now do in the Outdoor Education course. A few years into teaching eighth-grade PE, I attended professional development in Montana and realized I could make an entire course of outdoor sports. We offered one section of it that first year. The next year we were able to offer two sections. Now, the demand is so large that I teach this course all five hours.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 “𝘄𝗵𝘆”?
I know something they don’t know yet. And if I don’t show them, who will? I love that opportunity to show them something new. If it sparks their interest, they may pursue it further.
“𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗺𝗮𝘆 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗲 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲’𝘀 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗱𝗮𝘆.” 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁’𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗚𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘄?
I get to teach something I love.
Mr. Blair masterfully incorporates core subjects (vocabulary, biology, and computations to name a few) while exposing his students to sports they may never have a chance to experience outside of his classroom. Owasso is a suburb of Tulsa with some students still living in what most would consider a rural area: Mr. Blair offers them something they probably already love. Still, to the kids who moved from an urban setting to a suburban one, he is offering them a whole new cultural experience. It’s a different take on a multi-cultural and well-rounded educational offering but remains a meaningful learning experience. Mr. Blair has ingeniously taken his passions, gift-wrapped them in time and care, and offered them to his students–creating an environment that both teacher and student love and remember forever. In archery, students practiced safety, focus, awareness, and patience–skills we know they will need both in and out of their school walls. Students leave his course not only with the expertise of handling a bow or fishing rod, but with the skills of diligence, attentiveness, and grit.
Thank you, Mr. Blair.
Thank you, Teachers of Oklahoma.
This story was written by Rebecka Peterson, 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. She is writing a series of stories highlighting the good and important work of teachers across the state of Oklahoma. To read more stories like this one go to: Facebook.com/TeachersofOK