Health and Physical Education Teacher
Mountain View High School
Kingsley, PA, USA
Field: Health and Physical Education
When Maureen M. Klees began in health education nearly three decades ago, she wanted a job that would allow her to be indoors and outdoors and spend time with her children. Unfortunately, some attitudes toward physical education were very discouraging. Teachers would say, “Who needs health classes?” As a health and physical education teacher at Mountain View High School, Ms. Klees believes the subjects should be main components of not only a student’s curriculum, but of their everyday life. “I think that physical education and health complement each other,” she says. The principles taught in these classes contribute to a lifestyle and habits that can improve one’s quality of life through adulthood.
Obesity in both children and adults has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. According to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), “an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese.” This alarming statistic has made Ms. Klees’ job that much more significant as she is charged with teaching the impact of proper nutrition and exercise to her students. She stresses to seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders that the effects of poor practices can be endless, and that practicing good nutrition habits while they are still young will preserve their physical fitness. With nearly 30 years of experience in education, she is sometimes tempted by the thought of retirement, but the youthfulness her job provides is reason enough to return to work each day. However many obstacles she is faced with, she can always get through them by turning to her faith in God. She also attributes her success to her willingness and ability to recognize opportunity, and the support she receives from her parents.
Ms. Klees earned a master’s degree in health science from East Stroudsburg University. She has kept herself motivated in her field through holding memberships with the Mountain View Education Association; The Pennsylvania State Education Association; the National Education Association; the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; and the American Public Health Association. She is also affiliated with the 20-20 Leadership Foundation, the American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association. An entertainer at heart, she has a passion for music and loves to sing. Some of her fondest memories include being a part of a traveling choir.
Conversation with Maureen M. Klees, MS
Worldwide Publishing: On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Maureen M. Klees: I love children. I am very sensitive and I feel as though I am here to help children, either in health or PE. I have been teaching health for 28 years and it was just in the last two years that I have been given some PE classes. I feel as though I have been able to help bridge things over the years.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
Organization is a strength for me. I also have strong people and communication skills. I am a good listener and am very patient.
What motivates you?
I feel as though I am doing what God wants me to do. He has given me a lot of talents that have helped me to reach out to a diversity of young people and those that I work with. I am able to have rapport with a wide variety of people. What motivates me is that I know I’m on this earth for a short time. God gave me these abilities for a reason and I am living out what he wants me to do.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field for the past 29 years?
I have learned that when you teach, you learn. It’s important to take things one day at a time, not give up, be flexible, and care about the people that you are with. You need to know that everyone has things that are important to them; you should be sensitive to that and try to work with their needs, not against them.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
My short-term goals are to be there for my kids while they are going through school and to continue teaching while they are there. My long-term goal is to take things day by day, aim for retirement, and have the ability to help my children through college.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
Maintaining my character and integrity when obstacles come my way. When things come at me and try to tear me down or disengage me, I look to my faith to help me.
What is the most significant issue facing education today?
A lot of change is happening more rapidly, and I would say that children need consistency and to know that people are there to support them — that there is some sense of family there for them. It seems that there are a lot of things undermining the family and that kind of support. I think that is taking its toll on education because it is affecting the [students]. You still need to have people in education that are willing to grow and be flexible with the changes that occur to keep updated for the kids. I feel that a lot of times teachers will get preyed upon for things that are out of their control. It’s really trying to stay consistent for the children when everything wants to pull us apart.
What are some questions that an individual interested in education can ask to get their own profession started?
What are my goals? How can I leave others with more value as a result of my efforts? What are my strengths and how can I use those to benefit others?
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession? If yes, how did you end up working in your current field?
A lot of the students ask me if I am a psychologist. I was actually debating whether or not to pursue psychology or health and PE. I dabbled with a part-time business on the side, which is called AMEND (Absolutely Motivated to Empower New Directions). What I wanted to accomplish with this business was to leave people with more value, help them be focused and get ahead in their life. I could use my background in health and physical education with this.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Feeling like I am making a difference in the life of a child. I feel thankful that I have been in the position that I am in because I feel as though I can make a difference in the county, as well as the school district, one child at a time. It’s been a blessing to me to have had opportunities where I have been exposed to things on a national level that have helped empower me back here at home within my community.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My least favorite task is the mounds of paperwork. I am the kind of person who can’t let anyone else grade papers for me because the child’s individual self is at stake. I’d rather work with the children. They do confide in me and I don’t take that lightly.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
My mother — she struggled through a lot in her life, but she showed commitment to raising her children, despite any obstacles. We’ve all benefitted from her love and care. She lost a mother and father at a young age and didn’t want us to go through what she did, and did a great job.
I babysat for a woman named Sandy Show, who was a music teacher, starting at the age of 13. She had four children and I was sort of like an apprentice watching how she raised her family from a professional perspective. I watched how she communicated with her children, which was very different from how my family communicated, because I was one of eight kids. I learned a lot from watching her raise her kids. She was the one who referred me to the college I eventually ended up attending. Her daughter is now a principal of a school district in Rochester, N.Y.
My third role model was a woman named Diane Dunn, who was my physical education teacher in high school. She did all the PE teaching and coached every sport, so I was involved in everything she was. She had a husband and a family, and when I asked her how she did all she did, she said, “Oh it’s easy when you are organized.” I took that to heart and saw that being organized is so important.
Also my coach Bob Tchu, who had advised the volleyball club that I organized at Lock Haven University. My goal was to make it a varsity sport, but it was a very lofty goal in four years of college. After some time it became a varsity sport and is now nationally and internationally recognized, so it has certainly come a long way. He instilled in me the attitude to never give up.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
I have developed the health curriculum and it has come so far since I started nearly 30 years ago. This year they cut the curriculum in half due to budget cuts. In the area of health education when I first started teaching, the attitudes were really bad toward health. People would say that we didn’t need health classes. I felt like a lone ranger starting out, yet I didn’t give up. It was hard in the beginning, but as time went on I stuck to what I was trained to teach. Over time, people started looking at things differently and then we started seeing things on TV that were more supportive of health on the local, state and national level. It felt good to have that support. The change is how we have become nationally conscientious of the value of health.