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ACU students bring fun and fitness to Big Country children


Teacher education majors directs students in a PE lesson. (Courtesy of Deonna Shake)

In school, success is typically measured by grades, but during the noon hour every Wednesday, success is measured in giggles, yells and the overall excitement of a group of elementary students.  

From 12:10-12:40 p.m. every Wednesday, 40 home-schooled children ages 6 to 12 file into the Royce and Pam Money Recreation Center at Abilene Christian University ready to be led in a physical education lesson by students in the Department of Teacher Education. 

Deonna Shake, an instructor in the Department of Kinesiology, advises the ACU students in a 30 minute lesson and has taught the Physical Activities for Elementary class for eight years. Shake has been at ACU for 33 years – 22 in the kinesiology department – and she said this class is essential to the development of the complete teacher. 

“I have some great students,” Shake said. “It’s fun watching them teach and how excited they get. We always measure the success of the activity in the excitement, the giggles and the yells, and we always try to end on a high note. It’s a very rewarding class to teach.” 

Abigail Howard, a mother of three, believes the class is vital to the social growth of her kids. Howard brings Elyah, Adara and Silas as often as she can and has ever since the class began. She said the only thing that could be better about the class was for it to be longer. 

“I just see the kids coming here and enjoying themselves,” Howard said. “For me, it just gives me a lot of satisfaction. The one thing that I wish is that it was longer, because that’s what the kids are asking for right now.” 

The 18 ACU teacher education students prepare lessons each week based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS for P.E. In addition to the TEKS, students must also plan a cross-curricular activity to establish patterns of information between different academic subjects. These activities offer a creative way of developing knowledge, understanding and practical skills through a study of incorporated topics. One of the activities was a parachute activity while teaching their students to count by two to keep them engaged throughout the 30-minute timeframe. 


The teacher education majors plan a 30-minute lesson each week for 40 homeschoolers.

Cambell Hassell, a sophomore special education major from Keller, said she has learned a lot about the importance of brain breaks and keeping her students engaged. 

“Being active is super important,” Hassell said. “Also being with kids your age and people who care about their lives, love them and are in their corner, even if it’s just for a 30 minute lesson. Our biggest hope is that they know that we care for them, we want the best for them. Also moving around and having fun and creating a lifelong love for activity.”

Cynthia Huerta is a senior early education major from Breckenridge, and she said she has a new level of respect for her P.E. teachers after learning what it takes to effectively teach the importance of exercise.    

“As I grew up, I thought it was something a teacher would do randomly,” Huerta said. “But after taking this class, I now see how much preparation and thinking about the activities you have to do to make sure students are having fun. Overall, having students move around is important because this PE might be the only time they have a break from sitting down.”

Registration for the class is first come, first serve. Shake coordinates with the Friday School Co-Op and others in the home schooling community in Abilene for sign ups each year. 

Shake said she believes the class is important for not only exercise but the social aspect as well, ensuring future success for the kids and alleviating stress for parents who have to teach numerous other subjects to their children. 

“For them to interact with other kids in a setting that teaches teamwork, building, encouragement, all those things are difficult to do in your home,” Shake said. “We absolutely think our class is a great opportunity for parents to have a little break and for us to do what we have a facility to do and the equipment to provide.” 

Learn more about the Department of Teacher Education and the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition.

— Connor Mullins

Nov. 8, 2022

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