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Interview- SHAPE 2019 National Teacher of the Year Donn Tobin

Everyday is essential in teaching. Donn Tobin, the 2019 SHAPE Teacher of the Year, makes everyday count for his students. Mr. Tobin goes above and beyond to set new standards for teachers across the country. His lessons are not only fun and enthusiastic but they integrate other curriculums and health. In his class students do more than run and play. They learn teamwork, how to make healthy choices, and even math. We at The PE Coach are beyond grateful for Mr. Tobin taking time out of his schedule to help give other teachers some advice and helpful hints.




Donn Tobin just completed his 23rd year of teaching. He teaches at Lakeview Elementary School in Mahopac, NY. Mr. Tobin teaches grades K-5 which has led him to be the 2019 SHAPE National Elementary Teacher of the Year.


PE Coach: What steps were involved in earning this honor?


Donn Tobin: In order to reach this level, I needed to win the award on the state level (I received the award in 2017- 2017 New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NYSAHPERD) Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award, and then had to win at the regional level (2019 SHAPE America Eastern District Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award).  Both of these levels involved a thorough vetting process, essays, recommendations and being graded by multi-person panel on a rubric.  Once I got to the national level, my regional information was forwarded to a national committee.  Once there I had to do an unedited 20 minute video lesson of my teaching with a lot of strict guidelines- I was allowed two breaks in the video in order to show my introduction, lesson focus and evaluation/wrap up review to the lesson.  An accompanying essay was written to highlight what the reviewers could and could not see on the submission.  I was required to highlight and discuss multiple teaching methodologies, standards, and other items for the lesson (where it was in relation to my scope and sequence within my curriculum).  Finally I had an online, 30 minute business interview with a committee of “experts”.  I had that time to answer 12 questions and if I went over my time, regardless of whether I finished with all the questions, the interview was over.  I was graded on a rubric and eventually won on overall points.


PE Coach: What made you want to be a teacher?


Donn Tobin: I was very heavily involved with the martial arts growing up.  As an adolescent, I was required to teach other students.  Due to my rank and status within the dojo at the time, I was moved to the adult class as an 11 year old child.  I learned how to break skills down into easy parts and learned that I could communicate well with the adults.  I was a camp counselor throughout high school and liked working with children.  I think the combination for loving athletics and working with children helped me make that decision.


PE Coach: Are there any conferences or conventions you recommend to other teachers?


Donn Tobin: Absolutely!  Teachers should always try to attend any local conference as well as their state conference.  I have learned so much from such amazing people at the state level.  I try to go every year and always take something away from them.  If teachers have the opportunity to attend at least 1 national conference they should.  The size of the conference and the offerrings can be very overwhelming but definitely worth it.


PE Coach: As a PE teacher it can be difficult to assess all of our students in a timely fashion. Is there any tips or tricks that you’ve found work best?


Donn Tobin: 1. It is not necessary to assess everyone at once.  However the use of Plickers and Plagnets 

(Using Plickers in magnet form) is by far extremely beneficial for me.  

2. Making things simple is very important for me.  It is not necessary to jazz activities up to the point they become too complicated.  Keeping things simple translates to making it easier for me to pinpoint what I want to teach to the kids and what I want the kids to know.


PE Coach: What do you think is the most difficult aspect of your job? And what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?


Donn Tobin: The most difficult aspect of the job is being able to teach with more and more constraints put upon education (budgetary restraints, mandates).  The most rewarding part of my job is by far the kids!  I love working with the students and love watching them improve and grow over the years.


PE Coach: Do you have a type of technology that you like to use in class?


Donn Tobin: Like I said before, I keep things simple: stereo, various apps with iPad and iPhone, and my iWatch.


PE Coach: How do you incorporate other subjects into your lessons?


Donn Tobin: It is important to know what the classroom teachers are covering and finding ways to be relevant in the academic areas as well as the gymnasium.  If ever there is a teachable moment it is important to incorporate them in lessons.  I have also found it is super simple to add things within physical activities to teach a concept.


PE Coach: How do you prevent burn out?


Donn Tobin: Making sure you save time for yourself (working out, hobbies).  Also to remember that you can easily say “no” to things if you feel overwhelmed.


PE Coach: How do you handle disgruntled parents?


Donn Tobin: Very carefully.  I try to put a positive spin and never in a accusatory tone.  Typically if I need to reach out it is easy to do via email.  But for “big ticket” items or problems, I have found that it is best to speak over the phone.  People can misread things very easily in an email, and can hurt you in the long run.  When dealing with a disgruntled it is important to remain calm and remember that it is not personal.


PE Coach: What is your biggest piece of advice to new teachers?


Donn Tobin: Get involved with associations and network yourself like crazy.  I have always maintained that I have learned the most in my career from others.  The best ideas, techniques, concepts are already being done by others.  Surrounding yourself with positive and forward thinking teachers are the ones I want to be near.  



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