As an athlete growing up, Ricky Shaw learned discipline that served him well as a linebacker in college and the National Football League where he played for the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
And it is that same discipline he is trying to share with children he now coaches in physical education classes at Hungerford Elementary School in Eatonville.
To be a competitive athlete, you have to take care of the physical and mental parts of the game, he explained. Skills are important, but so is the athlete’s lifestyle. “You see a lot of professional athletes today who have a lot of skill, but their poor lifestyle is costing them careers,” Coach Shaw said.
The same could be said for life.
An imposing six foot four inches tall, Coach Shaw gets both attention and respect from his students as PE Coach and Winter Park Health Foundation Healthy School Team (HST) Leader. He has become the cheerleader for all things healthy at his school, whether it is eating a healthy diet or getting enough sleep, drinking water and getting lots of exercise.
“It’s all about giving back,” says Shaw, adding “some of the most influential people in my life were my coaches. I still communicate with two of them, one from high school and another from junior high.”
His focus is not just on those likely to excel in sports but all children of all sizes and abilities, as well as staff and parents.
“Coach Shaw consistently demonstrates his conscientiousness and genuine commitment to the education of our students, as well as a concern for health and wellness among students,” said Hungerford Principal Letecia Foster. “Coach Shaw wears many hats and plays many roles at Hungerford. He is not only the physical education teacher; he is the Healthy School Team Leader and ambassador for Fuel Up to Play 60 which promotes healthy eating and exercise. Our school is known as a touchdown school.”
He also serves as the American Heart Association “Jump Rope for Heart” Fundraiser Coordinator, and coordinates a running club at Hungerford which trains sprinters for the Fast Start Track & Field Invitational.
In addition, Coach Shaw implemented a weight loss program for the faculty called “Biggest Loser,” helps run a non-profit golf club for beginning golfers, and has implemented a bike and walk safety program, she said.
These are among the reasons Coach Shaw was selected to be teacher of the year at Hungerford.
“The pride Ricky has in not only his position as a PE teacher but also as a positive role model for the Hungerford students is evident in everything he does,” said Melodie Griffin, HST Coordinator for the Winter Park Health Foundation. “Ricky is constantly looking for opportunities to engage community partners, local businesses, and individuals to bring in programming to help students experience opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
For example, when he was concerned his students who were very overweight were not able to participate in regular outdoor physical activities; he reached out to community partners and was able to obtain kid-sized stationary exercise equipment his children could use indoors to get a good workout safely.
In addition to impressing the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, Coach Shaw emphasizes the importance of persistence, something he learned as an athlete. “I always stress that it is important to not quit, but to carry on and try to do better.”
He said he also tries to help students learn to make better choices, and to not base personal decisions on decisions made by siblings and friends, particularly if they are not making good ones.
“Ricky looks at every lesson he delivers as a character development opportunity for his students,” added Ms. Griffin. “He always goes above and beyond the responsibilities of his job to ensure his students are well taken care of, happy, and fulfilled. Ricky is a big guy with an even bigger heart who cares deeply about the well-being and success of each of his students.”
And his message to parents to is remember they serve as important role models for their children. He recommends parents try to exercise together as a family rather than just sending children out by themselves. It will improve the health of the whole family.