When members of The River Christian Reformed Church, Redlands, Calif., volunteered to run an intramural program at nearby Lugonia Elementary School, they had no idea the relationship would lead to reviving the school’s physical education program.
Church members were providing intramural sports to students in fourth and fifth grades. However, last spring the assistant principal at the school approached the church about expanding the program to include grades 1 through 3 because the school was seeing a marked difference in truancy and discipline issues. The church didn’t have the capacity to do so, but Rev. Nick In’t Hout envisioned a physical education (PE) program that could be started free of charge to the school.
In’t Hout approached Alivia Hibbler, a recent graduate of Calvin College who was in the middle of her job search for a physical education teaching position. “I heard him out but was actively applying, interviewing, and being offered positions all over the United States,” said Hibbler. “I agreed to think about the idea and get back to Nick. But that is when God stepped in.”
Even as she received job offers, Hibbler said she couldn’t get this idea out of her head. “I realized that the students at those [other] schools would be getting quality PE even if it didn’t come from me, but for the students at Lugonia Elementary, that was not the case. If I didn’t, no one would.” She took the step of faith to take an unpaid position, teaching 36 different PE classes to 525 students from transitional kindergarten to third grade. Through the church, Hibbler works to raise funds for the program, called Revive PE. The church supports and promotes the program, and some church members sit on an advisory board along with community members and school employees.
Since starting the new program, the school has seen a marked decrease in discipline issues. One student received an in-school suspension but said he was never going to get in trouble again because missing out on PE was “the worst punishment ever,” said Hibbler. Another student reported going home and asking her dad to kick the soccer ball around. Hibbler said, “Her dad said yes! She said she had never played with her dad like that before.” The entire Lugonia community has come around the program as they have become less apprehensive about the “new face.”
“We know from numerous studies that health is connected to academic achievement and emotional well-being,” said Hibbler. “And more importantly it is my hope that Christ’s love will shine through me as I teach and interact with students, faculty, staff, parents, and community members.”