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Whitmer high teacher earns health educator of the year award

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Tina Dake, right, participates in a running game with Kristen Smith, left, and Alicia Bodette.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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A Whitmer High School teacher has been chosen the 2008 School Health Educator of the Year by the American School Health Association.

Tina Dake was honored for her work in instituting two health and fitness classes and an after-school, health-promotion program at Whitmer. She flew to Tampa last month to accept the award.

About 140 students are enrolled in Mrs. Dake's individual fitness course, a program that teaches students yoga, pilates, weight lifting, and other lifetime fitness activities. The course was introduced last year as an alternative to the team sports branch of physical education. It allows students to focus on their individual fitness goals, be it weight loss, strength training, or health maintenance.

"I have so many students that sports isn't their thing," Mrs. Dake said. The hope is that "they'll continue that positive action after they have your course."

During her nine years at Whitmer, Mrs. Dake also instituted a health promotion class, where students targeted unhealthy behaviors in the school system with public awareness campaigns. The class has since been converted to an after school program called Youth Advocates.

Youth Advocates led the school's Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide drug prevention campaign. The group also developed a labeling system to inform students of the nutritional content of snacks sold in the school's vending machine.

Senior Karen Turpening, 17, is one of about 20 students who take part in the program.

"Every time I look at the vending machine, I always pick the green [label] because that's the healthy choice," she said.

Karen, who wants to be a nurse, also enjoys the community service aspects of the program.

"Not only do you spread information throughout your school," she said, "you help out younger kids."

Under Mrs. Dake's leadership, Whitmer also instituted a staff wellness program. Teams of teachers and other staff compete to see who can log the most hours of physical activity.

The obesity crisis has been a motivating issue for Mrs. Dake, she said.

"We have to do things different because our world is different," she said.

Her most important goal, however, is helping advance academic achievement through health, she said.

"Health and PE are really important subjects because it impacts the whole child," she said. "It affects their performance in other classes."

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