Wanda Taylor was a state champion cross-country runner in high school who received an athletic scholarship to Murray State University in Kentucky. Unfortunately, while studying for her Bachelor of Science in physical education and health, she was in a car accident that ended her running career. Taylor says the experience made her a better teacher, which is one reason she was recently named President-Elect of the Southwest District of the Society of Health and Physical Educators, or SHAPE America.

Taylor will represent the states of Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California and Hawaii as a spokesperson and advocate for "well-balanced, high-quality, daily physical education programs in our nation's schools." She was nominated in March and named one of two finalists at the Southwest District convention in Las Vegas, Nevada in June where members voted her President-Elect.

"I will be promoting children's health in our schools and making sure all physical education requirements are being met," she said. "Nowadays, the hard thing is getting kids to go outside and play instead of staying indoors and playing with their electronics, so that is something I work to promote daily."

Taylor has been a physical education and health teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High School for 12 years and previously spent 11 years at Parley's Park Elementary School. Ten years ago, when her children were grown, she went back to school at Utah State University to obtain a Master's degree in Education.


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A love of sports and athletic activities from a young age propelled her career in physical education. The cross-country career-ending car accident she experienced in college, she said, then made her career choice even more meaningful.

"It was an eye-opening experience, going from being a superstar in the sport to not being able to do it as well as you used to ever again," she said. "It taught me to become a better teacher, because when you can't do it anymore, you really have to learn then how to teach it to someone else."

While Taylor does make her students run, she really enjoys finding new ways for them to appreciate movement and exercise. She said she teaches three 90-minute classes every day filled with fitness activities including not only team sports but also yoga, self-defense, roller-blading, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, among other activities.

"Some students don't like sports or athletics, so at the junior high age, I try to show them different ways to stay fit," she said. "For example, a student may not want to go into sports in high school, but maybe they enjoyed yoga and will sign up for classes and do that to stay healthy."

In this "Digital Age," Taylor said it is harder and harder to get young people to want to move around and exercise. Playtime may have meant a tetherball pole and a basketball court for previous generations, she said, but this generation prefers to spend its time on social media, on the Internet or playing videogames.

Taylor said students living in Park City are fortunate because the mountains in their backyards are playgrounds in themselves. There is a diverse array of activities they can take part in to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and she tries to incorporate those activities into her lessons every year.

As an educator regularly attending Southwest District SHAPE conventions, Taylor said she learns new methods for keeping children interested in fitness activities and is excited to implement the lessons she learned at June's convention in the 2014-2015 school year.

"For me, every year is a new start, and there is never a morning when I wake up and don't want to go to work. It's exciting to get new equipment to teach new lessons and get students moving and having fun," she said. "It's like I always say, 'If your body's not healthy, where are you going to live?'"

For more information about the Society of Health and Physical Educators, including their mission and how to join, visit www.shapeamerica.org.