Teaching gym to special needs children is vitally important, but can be difficult given the unpredictability of students with a variety of disabilities. Greg Lukshaitis of Beaverton, Oregon has mastered this art. The Society of Health and Physical Educators just recognized his skill and dedication by naming him National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
While Lukshaitis had won several other awards, this is his crowning achievement. The national award recognizes both his teaching performance and his ability to motivate students to stay physically active for the rest of their lives.
His previous awards included two from the Oregon Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE):
- Oregon Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year
- SHAPE’s Northwest District Teacher of the Year
Lukshaitis stepped into his position eight years ago immediately after getting his master’s degree in adapted PE from Western Michigan University. He joined a fantastic team. The Beaverton School District is unique in that it has a 23-member team contracted from the Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. The team consists of three physical therapists, eight occupational therapists, and six assistants.
These professionals rotate among schools in this district, so they teach a range of students. Many of the children are autistic, while others have cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome.
Getting the children to participate in their physical activities is the big focus of the team. Lukshaitis compared these efforts to a dance in an interview with OregonLive.com. He said that sometimes they lead the children, while other times the team follows their lead.
Lukshaitis finds his students’ needs humbling. His personal experience with watching his mother’s physical health deteriorate from multiple sclerosis while growing up motivated him to enter the field of adaptive PE where he could make a difference in children’s lives.