Two years ago, I was working at a summer day camp where I began talking to a co-worker about programs that we used with our students. I told her that I was a runner and I used the programs through the New York Runner’s Club. In prior years, I was struggling to find programs for my 12:1 special education physical education classes who were lacking motivation and not willing try something new. She suggested this great program that she used with her students with disabilities called Achilles Kids. I was really curious about the program, so that night I did my research on the program. Once I saw the video on YouTube explaining the Achilles Kids Program, I was sold! In the Fall of 2015, I took the plunge and signed up three of my 12:1 classes for the Achilles Kids: Run for Life Program with Karen Lewis. I was so glad I did!
My Journey Using The Achilles Kids Program
My first year with Achilles Kids was a huge success, but it was a challenge to get there. As was the case in years past, the students resisted the change from the regular routine and did not want to run and participate in the program. However, I started to run with them and told them about the different prizes that they would receive if they reached their goals. First, the certificates came in the mail, and for many of these students this would be the first award they had ever received! Soon, there was no more complaining and it was replaced with a motivation that I was so excited to see. They started striving to go a little further every time they came into the gym. Not only did they start to get moving, but they motivated me to start to run again and I started to go after my personal goal of running a marathon.
The second year with Achilles Kids was a very special one for me. First, I enrolled all my 12:1 classes in the program and immediately. I had the classes off and running from day one. The kids were ready and eager to start running and many reached their goals. I started promoting the Achilles Kids program to other schools in Brooklyn through my PE Professional Learning Committee. I had Karen Lewis (Director of Achilles Kids) visit so she could speak to the other physical education teachers. She did a question and answer session and we signed them up for the program for the upcoming school year. We signed up twenty new schools for the program!
3rd Grade Student Success Story
There was a third-grade boy name James, and everyday he would come in the gym and do his walking for Achilles Kids. James was an overweight boy who is slightly autistic and he rarely spoke to anyone. However, through his one-on-one paraprofessional, he told her that he wanted to run instead of walk around the gym to make his goal of one mile without stopping. Every week, he would walk less and run more. On the second week, he came up to me and said, “Watch me, Mr. Dyer!” His running said it all, he did not stop after a mile but kept going about two miles. The smile on his face when he finished made it all worth it. At the end of year one, thirty-four of the thirty-six students had reached their goal of getting a free pair running sneakers. And, by the way, yes, I did run my marathon in May!
School Transformation & Personal Achievement
For my school, my students kept on running and I did the same. However, I had to take a step back due to an injury, but my students kept encouraging me, “Mr. Dyer, you can always walk, remember no excuses!” Well, I did not stop and I did my walking while they ran. During my injury, I always just kept remembering James’ courage to run and meet his goals. If he can run two miles without stopping, then I can keep moving during my injury!
For all my outstanding and dedication, Achilles Kids and Adidas awarded me Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2016-17, which I was so grateful. I will continue doing this program for a long time and the friendship I have made with Karen and everyone at Achilles Kids will last a lifetime. The award was an honor and something I am truly proud of, but my greatest reward was seeing the smiles on my students’ faces and the tears in their parents’ eyes while they got their new sneakers for reaching all of their running goals. James’ mother put it best when she said to me, “Mr. Dyer, you gave my baby a gift that you cannot buy in any store. That was the gift to love to run. Thank you so much!”
If you would like more information on starting your own Achilles Kids Program for your school, you can contact:
- Scott Dyer: [email protected]@schools.nyc.gov
- Karen Lewis (Director of Achilles Kids): [email protected]
More information and resources for the program:
Informational Video: Achilles Kids Program 2014
About the Author:
Scott Dyer is elementary physical education teacher for Kindergarten through Fifth Grade at PS 251 for the New York City Public Schools. He serves as a Physical Education Ambassador and Facilitator for a Professional Learning Community in Brooklyn. He is married with two boys who love playing baseball and he coaches a travel youth baseball team and local track and field team on Long Island, New York.