It takes a team to build a healthier community, but it begins with the individual. As each of us becomes aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and starts to make changes to get there, we inspire others to want the same. Good health is contagious! This is not to say change is easy, it’s not. But it is possible, especially when everyone in the village joins in. What can you do to be a champion for health in your community?
Jon Siegel, Healthy School Team (HST) Leader and PE instructor at Lakemont Elementary School in Winter Park, not only walks the talk when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, he runs and swims it, day in and day out, often starting his daily workout as early as 3 a.m..
He has been focused on living a healthy lifestyle for much of his life—and works hard to encourage his students to do the same.
While Mr. Siegel has more than 40 marathons under his belt, as well as three Iron Man competitions—events that include a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run—he says he has traded in these grueling competitions for more moderate 60- to 90-minute daily workouts.
Exercise eases his mind and helps him relax. “It is important to me; it is the way to stay healthy.”
And that’s why he works so hard to inspire his students. “I am trying to teach children life tools, about eating the right things and exercising—and how to treat others well.”
Mr. Siegel has been a teacher at Lakemont Elementary for 23 years, and PE instructor for the past 16 years.
He has been an HST Leader since 2002 when the HST Leader positions were created in 12 schools serving children and youth from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville with support from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF). HST Leaders coordinate Healthy School Teams which are made up of parents, teachers, staff and administrators, and are responsible for organizing activities that promote healthy lifestyles and behaviors at their schools.
As PE instructor and HST Leader, Mr. Siegel has worked to encourage healthy habits among students and throughout the school.
He has helped establish walking and running clubs, staff fitness activities and healthy snack weeks. He also launched a post-Halloween candy collection program more than a decade ago that continues to inspire students to turn in their holiday treats—about 400 pounds each holiday, and last year he launched a yoga program that has been so popular, the school now has a yoga club.
He mixes in nutrition education in his classes and he also has the school’s CHILL counselor visit classes once a month to talk about character issues. This month’s lesson is on perseverance. (The CHILL program—Community Help & Intervention in Life’s Lessons—is a free, school-based counseling program for students supported by WPHF.)
Mr. Siegel says there is no activity absolutely right for everyone, and that is why he works hard to offer children a variety of fitness activities in class.
“I want them to find what they are good at,” he explained. “I try to introduce different things because students need to find physical activities they can do for life.”
He encourages parents to help their children find a physical activity they enjoy. “Every child needs to find something to get joy out of–then they will want to do it over and over again.” And this goes for adults as well, he said.
And, he said, he loves hearing about family members getting active together. “Kids are so happy to be able to come in and tell me their family members were doing something physical together.” That’s even better.