Honor roll: Promise Road Elementary School P.E. teacher recognized for innovative methods

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Throughout his career, Promise Road Elementary School physical education teacher Dan Tennessen has made an impact on his students, inside and outside gym class. He has been honored for his work multiple times in recent years.

A 44-year-old Brownsburg resident, Tennessen has been a teacher for 17 years and is in his first year at Promise Road as the school’s P.E. teacher. Through the years, his honors include being named Young Professional of the Year; Middle School P.E. Teacher of the Year; and Midwest Middle School P.E. Teacher of the Year.

But he isn’t in the education field for accolades. He’s in it because he enjoys teaching and shaping young lives.

“I do (the job) for the cause and not the applause,” Tennessen said. “My thing is, what do my students think and what do my co-workers think (about how I’m doing in my job)? What does my administration think? What does my district think? They’re the ones whose pats on the back mean the most to me. They’re the ones whose smiles mean the most to me.”

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Dan Tennessen talks to students in the gym. (Photo by Elissa Maudlin)

Prior to being hired at Promise Road, Tennessen taught in the IPS system and Avondale Meadows Academy and Avondale Meadows Middle School.

Tonya Moody, principal of Promise Road, said Tennesen’s “innovative teaching style” has enriched the school community. She said his approach to physical education promotes physical fitness, creativity and critical thinking.

“By incorporating novel activities and techniques, he engages students in a way that goes beyond traditional P.E. classes,” Moody said. “The one area that I cannot say enough positive things about is his impact on school culture. The enthusiasm and energy he brings to our school helps promote a positive atmosphere that is built on teamwork. We are so thankful that Dan chose Noblesville Schools.”

When building the curriculum for elementary school physical education classes, Tennessen said he focuses on introducing students to different skills, ideas and strategies. He said students develop skills, generate confidence and experience the joy of being active.

“Research shows that, historically, around fourth grade, people start to lose interest in being physically active,” Tennessen said. “So, if I can keep them enjoying being active and teach them why it’s important, then they’re going to be more likely to do it as they get older.”

Tennessen said research suggests active kids are better learners, have fewer discipline problems and have better attendance. He uses the phrase, “Exercise grows brain cells” with his students.

Tennessen also uses different methods of engaging students, such as music and visuals like animated GIFs — images that move — to explain instruction or to begin an activity.

“(People have) always said a picture is worth a thousand words, and now videos are, I think, even better,” Tennessen said. “And so, if I can record a quick video or an animated GIF of myself or the class doing an activity, now all of a sudden it seems to be easier for them to follow along with.”

Claire Lomellin, one of Tennessen’s fourth-grade students, said his class is fun and that he has a good sense of humor. Caiyah Goens, another one of Tennessen’s fourth-grade students, said the class has learned about hand-eye coordination. As an example, she said the skill is important when a person is driving because they can’t look at their foot on the pedal.

Tennessen said the key to being a good teacher is “not having a big head” — being teachable, coachable and wanting to get better.

“It’s helped me not settle for what I’ve always done,” he said. “It’s helped me be willing to try new things that I’ve never done, even though I’m in Year 17.”

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Dan Tennessen speaking to students at Promise Road Elementary School. (Photo by Elissa Maudlin)

ACCOLADES AND HONORS

  • Referee of the Year in Indiana Youth Soccer in 2003
  • Student Teaching Award at IUPUI in 2007
  • Young Professional of the Year in Indiana SHAPE in 2016
  • Middle School P.E. Teacher of the Year in Indiana SHAPE in 2018
  • Midwest Middle School P.E. Teacher of the Year in 2020 (One of five finalists for a national accolade)
  • Elementary Vice President, secondary vice president and past president of Indiana SHAPE
  • Hosted 14 directors of physical education from Saudi Arabia regarding best practices and gender equality within physical education in 2019
  • Met multiple times with U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives to discuss federal education funding
  • Hosted state senators in his gym when they were recalculating educational funding
  • Contributes to worldwide curriculum and has trained teachers in more than 20 states

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