Holifield teaching life lessons at Cherokee Elementary

Yvonne Holifield has been named Cherokee Elementary’s teacher of the year three times.

Yvonne Holifield has been named Cherokee Elementary’s teacher of the year three times.

It isn’t always about winning.

What better way for a physical education teacher to display that message than going through and displaying the correct way to handle it. That is exactly what Cherokee Elementary Physical Education teacher Yvonne Holifield is doing.

Holifield was one of 13 finalists for the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD) Elementary School Physical Education Teacher of the Year. And while she didn’t win, she said that having someone nominate her was enough to let her know that she is teaching her students the right way.

“I was very honored that I was nominated,” Holifield said. “I may not have won this time, but there will be more opportunities. If you never try, you will never succeed. That is a message I like to share with the kids.”

Holifield — who has been named the Teacher of the Year three times at Cherokee Elementary (1994, 2003 and 2015) — always planned on becoming a physical education teacher. Almost four decades ago, Holifield wanted to become a PE teacher with the goal of detouring young children from hating physical education. Her 36 years of service are distinguishable enough, but it was a personal relationship that fueled her passion.

“I have a sister that hates PE, just as much as I love it,” Holifield said. “So I have always tried to teach to that child. To let them know that they feel safe in my gym and that we are going to applaud and encourage them no matter their level. And that we will celebrate their milestones and we aren’t going to pick on their weaknesses. That is my ultimate goal.”

While the times have changed for physical education in the community, the core concept of getting kids active has not.

“When I first started teaching, we didn’t have the video games or the fidget spinners or a lot of the distractions that kids face today,” Holifield said. “Back then, kids enjoyed getting out and playing. Now it’s almost a task.

“I understand the challenge that parents have, because you can’t just tell kids to go outside and play anymore, you have to make sure they’re safe. But the component of moving is still as important as ever. We are born to move and we just sit way too much, unfortunately.”

Holifield said that she tries to expose them to different activities during the hour-a-week that she sees her students.

“I just try to encourage them and give them some outside extension of things that they can do,” she said.

Holifield spends time volunteering outside of the classroom too, but she said she is pulled to helping these children understand the importance of physical fitness.

“Statistics say that my generation will be healthier than the next generation and it’s coming to fruition,” she said. “So I feel like as a physical educator, I have to do everything in my power to be able to educate my students that their body is the only one that they will have and they need to respect it.”


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