New Castle News

November 17, 2012

Gym dandies: Mohawk teacher, superintendent earn state honor for dedication to phys ed

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — It’s an honor for any school district to receive recognition from the state.

For the Mohawk Area School District, the distinctions are twofold.

Lou Ann Miller, elementary physical education instructor, is the recipient of Teacher of the Year for Elementary Physical Education. Kathleen Kwolek, superintendent, is receiving the Layman Award for the state.

Both will be recognized later this month at the 91st annual Pennsylvania State Association of Health and Physical Education, Recreation and Dance convention in Seven Springs.

Miller said that her mother always thought she should pursue a teaching career, but after high school graduation, she took a different path, working for a power company. However, she realized that she wasn’t meeting her potential.

So at age 30, “I took a leap of faith.”

Miller returned to college, received her teaching certificate two years later and knew then that teaching was her calling.

“It just clicked,” she explained, adding jokingly, “I finally listened to my mother.”

Getting a later start in her career is more impactful and meaningful than if she had begun earlier, Miller believes.

 Enthusiasm is one of her greatest traits, and students know that high fives are a spirited trademark.

“I love my job. The kids keep me going. Sometimes all they need is to see a smiling face.”

The award was given for her outstanding knowledge and contributions to the profession.

The New Wilmington resident said it isn’t so much about the award but the fact that she is being recognized by a group of peers.

Among her accomplishments at Mohawk was an effort with teaching partner Larry Carr to write and receive more than $80,000 in grant money, which was used to create an interactive fitness center at the elementary level.

“I can’t imagine working with a better person,” Miller said. “And I can’t think of doing anything else.”

Technology advancements and upgraded programs in the physical education department help hold students’ interest, she pointed out.

Her goal, also, is to encourage students to eat correctly and exercise.

“I’m always hoping that we’re making a difference. We try to be role models.”

Kwolek, who said she is humbled by the award, is thrilled that Miller is getting recognition.

“There is not a more deserving person in the state than Lou Ann,” Kwolek said.

The superintendent is being recognized for her championing of the school’s physical education department.

“I’m a super supporter of health and wellness for students. With mandates and demands of the academic level at an all-time high and decreasing revenue from the state, non-tested areas including arts, music and physical education are hit the hardest.”

Physical education captures the interest of elementary students in particular, Kwolek continued, adding she goes into the classrooms on a regular basis.

“Working with teachers is the best part of the job.”

Learning is a never-ending process for Kwolek.

As for the award — “It’s very humbling and an affirmation that we’re going in the right direction with our physical education.”

(Email: lhudson@ncnewsonline.com.)