Elk Meadows, South Jordan Elementary Students Shine At SportsDay
Jul 06, 2016 10:47AM
By Julie Slama
South Jordan Elementary students carry a banner at the parade May 20 during the Jordan School District Sports Day. — Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
It was a day of smiles, laughter, cheering and clapping as students representing 11 different Jordan School District elementary schools paraded on May 20 on the Herriman High school track carrying banners, waving their hands to teachers, principals, school district officials and families who came to support these students with differing levels of ability.
“Every student of every ability is a winner,” South Jordan Elementary Principal Ken Westwood said. “We celebrate each student’s accomplishments and everyone gets a ribbon or a medal.”
South Jordan classroom teacher Kelli Sundell said the students are excited about Sports Day all year.
“It unites students and it’s a fun way to end the school year,” she said. “Students compete against other students of similar abilities in small groups so they’re challenged within their own level.”
Throughout the district, students who have Austism, Down’s Syndrome, learning disabilities, language disabilities, intellectual disabilities, those physically challenged with walkers and wheelchairs and other multiple disabilities come together to race in a 50-meter dash, long jump, softball throw and cross country distance run.
“Some good people have gone above and beyond expectations and saw the need and value of this day for the kids and are willing to put in the time to make it happen. These are people who find the value and meaning of this special day and are dedicated to make it happen, to do the right thing,” Westwood said.
Students in all the schools train for the day with their adaptive physical education teachers. One of those teachers, Kami Anderson, said that for more than 35 years, the district has offered these students the chance to excel.
“These kids can do it and we help build their confidence to show they can,” Anderson said. “It’s important for everyone to be active and we work on these lifelong skills.”
However, if students need to adapt the sports, Anderson is there to change a softball to a cush ball for better grip, or to adapt a wheelchair push or use a carabiner to follow if a student is blind.
Cross country run is the only event students need to qualify, Anderson said, adding that they must be able to run one mile.
“We evaluate all 370 students in March, then group them together by age and ability. These kids are just wanting to be out there, having fun,” she said.
And at the track meet, students had huge smiles and were being supported by family members.
South Jordan sixth-grader Alex Shields, who is a big University of Utah fan, said he looks forward to Sports Day and he likes the long jump. After completing his jump, he got to go through a tunnel of fans and supporters and give a high 5 to his principal.
“My mom puts my ribbons in my scrapbook,” he said. “I’m excited to do it all.”
Alex ended up with a first place in the 50-yard dash, second in the long jump, third in the softball throw and an honorable mention in cross country.
“This is the best he’s ever done,” his mother, Karen, said. “He’s worked all year to get better and each year, we’ve seen how much he’s improved.”
Shields said her son, who had unexplainable seizures when he was two, now struggles with reading and writing, but is well adjusted and social.
“He’s very kind, loving to everyone, and just a happy, great kid,” she said.
Even though Alex has competed in Sports Day the past years, this was his last year as it is only offered to elementary students. Now he’s up for a new challenge, learning to play golf this summer.
“There are lots of complications in golf,” he said, adding that he wants to drive a golf cart.
Classmate Chandler Black repeated his cross-country medal with a clear lead ahead of his competitors.
“Running makes me feel like Flash Gordon,” said the fifth-grader, who plays lacrosse three times per week. “The race is tiring, but the best part is the medal.”
Chandler, who earned second-place ribbons in softball, long jump and the 50-yard dash, said he also got awards for his visual art entry in the Parent-Teacher Association’s Reflections contest. Even so, that’s not what school is all about.
“I have the best teacher and I like math as well as PE,” he said.
His dad, Jeremy, said that Chandler, who has a reading deficiency, loves sports.
“He hangs with his friends and has lots of team spirit, supporting them,” he said. “He just loves competing.”
Elk Meadows student Robert Gonda agrees that winning isn’t what Sports Day is all about.
“We don’t know our rank until we race, but it’s more about trying to do your best, having good sportsmanship and even though I don’t like to lose, I still say good job to the other competitors,” he said.
Robert set goals for himself to get first in cross country and the dash.
“It makes me want to run faster and work harder,” he said.
Robert received a first-place medal for cross country and also took first in the long jump. He finished third in the softball throw and fifth in the 50-yard dash.
“I play football, quarterback like Peyton Manning,” he said about his favorite player on his favorite NFL team, Denver Broncos. “He’s the oldest team member, but the best player. It says something about working hard to be good.”
Elk Meadows support unit teacher Cassidy Hansen said that her school students have behavioral, social and emotional disabilities so students had to show they could demonstrate good behavior to participate.
“We talk about it daily — how we all can’t be first, how to tell someone ‘good job,’ and what sportsmanship is,” she said. “We want them to learn that as well as how to run, jump and throw.”
Elk Meadows Principal Aaron Ichimura said he loves supporting his students participate in Sports Day.
“When they walk from their classroom to the bus to the ‘Rocky’ theme song, they have the biggest smiles on their faces as other students cheer them,” he said. “Then, here at Sports Day, the parents come out and get to see their kids succeed. Kids see other kids they know in the district, so we become connected. It’s just fun to watch them do their best. It’s their day.”