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Hawkins brings coaching passion to physical education

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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Lori Hawkins uses tools like balloons, jump ropes and yoga to make physical education fun. On a recent rainy day, she had her class not cooped up in a classroom watching a movie, but working on coordination, trying to softly hit a balloon with a paddle while staying stationary. Hawkins, a physical education teacher at Rock Creek and Ruhkala elementary schools in Rocklin, stumbled across the path of teaching after struggling with veterinary courses. She attended Sacramento State on a running scholarship, but said she struggled through, and spent two years at Sacramento City College before returning to Sacramento State. She was taking courses to become a veterinarian, but the biological sciences were an effort, Hawkins said. After talking with counselors and drafting a pro and con list of things she enjoyed doing, it was decided that she was an “outdoors person” and teaching physical education might be a good choice for her. Now, years later, it turns out it was a good move for Hawkins. “I always wanted to be a coach,” she said. Growing up, her coaches in high school and college always stood out to her. Now, she coaches various elementary clubs such as jump roping, which she calls “one of my loves,” sport stacking and previously cross country. Rock Creek Principal Dorothy Sutter said Hawkins is an “outstanding” teacher in her eyes. “She has always been someone who is always in the forefront of bringing back programs, not only for the school, but also for the district,” Sutter said. Whether it’s attending conferences or using after-school time to advise clubs, Sutter said Hawkins is always keeping the physical education curriculum fresh for the students. “You name it, she does it,” Sutter said. “The kids love her and she is just energetic about physical education.” One aspect of Hawkins’ role in physical education is working with youth that may have weight issues such as obesity. Instead of working one-on-one with the child, although that may be successful for some students, Hawkins said she talks to her students about eating habits, nutrition and being active, as a class, and encourages parent involvement. “When I see kids who are obese, I really support them,” she said. Part of Hawkins’ role as a teacher is to practice what she teaches. “My strength is to keep myself healthy and fit and be a role model for the kids,” she said. Being a strong figure for the students also means helping kids who are struggling. “What else can I do for these kids?” Hawkins said she always keeps in her mind. Her favorite aspect of teaching is “seeing the kids smile, being a part of their growing,” she said. In addition to strong management of her students, Sutter said the kids get excited about the new activities Hawkins brings to her students. “She goes above and beyond everything,” Sutter said. “She’s just a great asset to our school.”