Beyond Athletics: Teaching Students About Mental and Physical Health

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Text reads 2023 CHANGEMAKER TEACHER: Coach Jermar Rountree

Coach Jermar Rountree is a health and physical education teacher at Center City Public Charter School, Brightwood Campus. Jermar is D.C.'s 2023 Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the 2023 National Teacher of the Year. We're thrilled to honor him as a 2023 Changemaker for National Charter Schools Week.

Athletics aren't the only thing Jermar is teaching in his classroom. It's also very important to him to teach students about their social, emotional, and mental health. In addition, he has established in-school, after-school, and weekend partnerships with local organizations to help kids grow in all facets of life. Coach Jermar is an educator with a huge heart and cares for every student at his school. 

The National Alliance connected with Jermar for a Q&A about his experience as a teacher and in a charter school: 

How has working at a charter school shaped your career as an educator?

I am fortunate that my principal allows me to have autonomy over my classroom, which allows me to make decisions that are best for my students. Charter schools are beneficial for students to pursue their passions, empowering them to flourish academically and personally. At our school, we have a robust electives program in which teachers get to teach and share their passions outside of their curriculum. Some of the advantages of charter schools are that we promote diverse education, encourage specialization, and nurture an engaging learning environment.   

Tell us one of your favorite anecdotes from being a teacher that showcases why you do this work. 

One of my favorite stories of exploring different movements and imaginative realms with my students was with my PK4 groups in the wondrous world of transportation. We learned about vehicles, and how they move through traffic. As we learned new vocabulary, we added actions and made real-world connections to transportation.  

What do you love about being a teacher? 

My love for teaching and why I still do this work today is the feeling that I get when I wake up every morning. Being able to bring my students' passions and my passions to life in the classroom is the best part of every day. Providing my students and my families an opportunity to learn lifelong lessons in order instill healthy habits through generations is why I do the work that I do.  

What made you become a teacher?  

The first time I really thought about our education system was when I was a correctional officer and I had a unique experience with an inmate. He was 18 years old and couldn’t read, and received a letter from his family saying they were giving up on him. I realized I needed to continue on my path to education in order to prevent men like him (especially men of color) stay out of federal prisons.  

What makes you most excited about the future of public education or what opportunities do you see? 

I am the most excited that we have a seat in the White House and that education is being talked about on a global scale. I was a guest on a podcast with “Dramatic Solutions” with Carmen and Lennie. Their organization focuses on engaging students all of ages in dramatic experiences and play. I said, “In order for our voices as teachers to be heard we need to have the same vision, and we need to be saying the same thing. Think about when individuals chat about only their issues. It sounds like just noise.  However, when we are all saying the same thing, it is so powerful and moving that people have to listen.” One of my school's mantras is “One Band, One Sound!” and we focus on the idea that all students are our students. I am so happy to be a part of our band at Center City Brightwood!  

Meet more teacher 2023 Changemakers and join the National Charter Schools Week celebration!