Mid-Michigan teacher includes every student in gym class

“I think Mrs. Wonch is very nice. She do fun things with us.”
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:34 PM EST
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DELHI TOWNSHIP., Mich. (WILX) - Gym class is open to all students, but that doesn’t always mean everyone can participate. Allison Wonch was named Michigan’s Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year, after finding ways to include every student in the gym.

Audrey Murphy is a second grader at Sycamore Elementary School. When Murphy was asked about her gym teacher, Allison Wonch, Murphy said “I like gym because I just like to see her.”

Dariya Terry is also a second grader at Sycamore, and said about Wonch, “Every time we come here she has a big smile and that’s nice.”

Allison Wonch grew up in a sports family and has always valued physical activity. She has spent her career finding ways to bring that same value to students with disabilities.

“When you get a unique student who really has some barriers, you’re really motivated to just brainstorm,” Wonch said. “Like how can I make them successful so that they enjoy it and want to keep being there?”

Wonch has been heavily involved in Special Olympics at both the state and national levels. Now, she uses her expertise to bring adapted PE to Holt students.

“There is a place for everybody, and we can help facilitate that through movement, through PE, through adapted PE,” Wonch said.

Adaptive PE is all about meeting students at their current ability level. For example, if jump rope is too hard, Wonch has jump rope substitutes available (ie. pool noodles and hula-hoops) to make sure all students can get active.

“To participate, to be included, and to find a way to feel successful and joy,” said Wonch, “We move to experience joy, and then we keep moving because we experience that joy.”

She said being on the sidelines isn’t fun for anyone, and that “Everybody wants to be a part of something and feel included.”

Wonch also noted that adapted p.e. Ideals should go beyond the classroom.

“If you are in an opportunity where you see someone being left out, find a way to include them. Open up your circle, open up your thinking and just include them. Just being included is an amazing opportunity,” said Wonch.

“Student’s love Mrs. Wonch.” said Shannon Huff, principal at Sycamore Elementary, “Every one of her students feels like they belong.”

Huff says that it was an easy decision to bring Wonch on board this August, given her experience with adapted PE.

Wonch said working to include everybody is extremely rewarding, aside from her numerous awards. She’s also been named an outstanding coach by Special Olympics North America and was nominated for Michigan’s Life Changer of the Year award.

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