The P.E. class leaving students emotional

A fun activity the students and participants played in Andy Weinberg’s adaptive P.E. class.

Professor Andy Weinberg teaches the Adaptive Physical Education class at Vermont State University Castleton in ways that change lives forever. 

Every Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon, the Glenbrook Gym is filled with the smiles of Castleton students and kids from various local schools. 

Weinberg agreed to teach the adapted P.E. class 14 years ago, but he said he knew he needed to do something different about how to teach interacting with kids who have special needs. 

“I can tell students about how to interact with kids who have disabilities, but they need the chance to learn physically,” Weinberg said. 

This semester, the course is filled with 18 Castleton students and 18 kids with various learning and physical challenges. Not only does this class give VTSU students a chance to understand how to teach different learning styles, but it also gives these wonderful young kids the experience of getting out of their school for an hour to interact with a larger population than they do on a day-to-day basis. 

Phill Kenne, father of Noah Mallette, a participant in the program, said Noah has been a part of the learning program for four years. 

“This is the only thing that Noah looks forward to every week and he loves the college students,” he said. “If Noah got to choose, he would come five days a week all year round.” 

The connections made through this program are ones Noah will never forget, Kenne said. He spoke of a bond Noah had made with a previous student, Amir AlKassir, from the class of three years ago. 

Noah Mallette, shows off a cool handshake he came up with.

Noah saw AlKassir as his best friend and to this day still talks about him while looking at pictures of the two of them from the class, Keene said. 

During the recent class in the gym, Noah and one of the VTSU students from the class ran over to Keene to show him the new handshake they just devised. This automatically brought a smile to Kenne’s face. 

“I can’t express how well this course has helped Noah,” Kenne said. 

He went on to explain the excitement that lights up Noah’s face whenever he walks into the gym, and he is instantly greeted by all the students who shout his name while running up to say hello. 

Very few groups around the area do activities like this, allowing special needs students to maintain independence while interacting with the college students, Kenne said. 

Laughter and squeals filled the gym during the parachute and scooters class, organized by Castleton students Blake Riche and Alex Carney. As all students took turns rushing under the dome shaped fabric to grab a sports ball, smiles were everywhere. 

Max Fair, a junior at VTSU Castleton who is currently taking the class, shared its impact on him. 

“I didn’t know if P.E. was really what I wanted to do, but I forgot that this was a big part of being a teacher in this field, and having the ability to include everyone brings me so much happiness,” Fair said. 

Fair was asked about his favorite part of the course. He then explained that the moment happened literally two minutes before being asked. You could see the passion and pride fill his eyes while describing the way he felt after finally getting Tae-Shaun (one of the participants) to fully say Fair’s name and recognize who he was. 

VTSU student Alex Carney shared a story that will stay with her forever. 

Carney said she met a student from the class named Kaleb, who was shy initially. While back at his grade school, the week after Carney’s and Kaleb’s first interaction, however, he asked for “Alex from Castleton” for the rest of the week. 

Kaleb insisted on taking a picture with Carney the next Thursday before he left. The joy that it brought to Carney was indescribable, she said. 

Even just sitting in the gym for 15 minutes, you can see the happiness this course brings to both sides of those involved. With the chicken dance soundtrack in the background and college students surrounding her and cheering her on, participant Emma showed off her incredible dance moves. This interaction was massive for Emma who initially had some pretty shy interactions. 

At the end of class, the whole group gathers in a circle to recap the hour of activity. Weinberg congratulated everyone and reassured them about next Thursday’s class before everyone said their goodbye before departing. 

Before walking out, one little girl was overheard talking to her mentor and proudly explaining everything she did in today’s class, all while projecting the biggest smile. 

It’s moments like this that motivate Weinberg to continue teaching this class. 

“As a professor, being able to break down stereotypes and give everyone an opportunity to participate it’s an amazing experience,” he said. 

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