Teaching for Body and Mind

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Joined by students, Manorhaven Elementary Principal Bonni Cohen (left) and physical education teacher Megaera Regan (right) display the banner the school received for winning the 2015 Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award

“Remember, we are ladies before we are athletes,” said Megaera Regan’s basketball and volleyball coach Barbara Hoffman before each game for Manhasset High School, teaching Regan that it wasn’t just about the game, but about learning sportsmanship and manners.

Hoffman, along with Regan’s softball coach Fritz Mueller, who was the inspiration for the coach in the late 1970s television drama The White Shadow, inspired Regan to become a physical education teacher. Today, after starting out in the Port Washington School District in 1990 at Guggenheim with a few years at Daly, Regan teaches physical education at Manorhaven Elementary School, educating students about how physical activity is not only good for one’s physical health, but their mental health as well.

“I did my student teaching at the high school level and it was fantastic, but when I was hired it was only for elementary. Once I started, there was no turning back. I love working with younger kids, watching them grow and develop from babies to kids who go into middle school. And they’re so excited to come to me. I don’t have to work too hard to motivate them because they really want to be there.”

Throughout her years in Port, Regan cited two of her biggest achievements as being named Nassau Zone of New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AHPERD) elementary physical education teacher of the year in the spring of 2018 and being awarded New York State AHPERD elementary physical education teacher of the year in 2018.

“It was very exciting and mind boggling because New York State is pretty big,” says Regan.

Regan (middle) is congratulated by Port Athletic Director Stephanie Joannon, Manorhaven Principal Bonni Cohen and Nassau Zone AHPERD representatives Jackie Beihoff and Tara Nelson in 2017.

“Ms. Regan is a beloved member of our school community,” says Dr. Kathleen Mooney, superintendent of the Port Washington Union Free School District. “Ms. Regan has implemented several new initiatives that have enhanced our physical education programs and have inspired our students. We congratulate her for receiving such a prestigious and well-deserved recognition.”

While she holds those two achievements in high esteem, her other achievements and the school district’s are one and the same. Regan explained another of her significant accomplishments was Manorhaven’s two-time win of the Fit Active “Let’s Move” Active Schools Award, a sub-initiative of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

Three years ago, Action Based Learning consultant John Rutigliano was looking for a model school to begin training in the area and came across Port Washington. Soon after, he contacted Regan, and the Port Washington School District and Action Based Learning, kinesthetic learning strategies like physical movement to improve learning, started a partnership that began in Manorhaven and spread district-wide.

“Ms. Regan is an inspiring educator, role model and colleague,” says Bonni Cohen, Manorhaven Elementary School principal. “Her leadership, creativity and dedication to our students’ well being has set the bar for physical education. She strives to continuously enhance our students’ educational experience and we are incredibly proud to have her as a part of the Manorhaven family.”

Regan dancing with students. (Photos courtesy of Port Washington Union Free School District)

Regan explained that the students fully grasp that physical activity will not only get them in shape physically, but will help them inside the classroom as well.

“I think it’s a really good hook for them,” says Regan. “They make this connection and you can see a lightbulb go off. Making those connections and getting it is empowering for them.”

Watching that light bulb inside students’ heads go off is also one of the best parts about being a teacher, Regan said. She further explained that Manorhaven has a circus unit, where kids learn skills like juggling, plate spinning, unicycles and walking on stilts. Regan usually starts the unit at the end of the year and said she can’t wait to watch the fifth-graders, who are ready to finish elementary school and move onto middle school, explore the unit.

“Once they start doing circus activities, they go right back to being little kids and get really excited about mastering a skill and displaying sportsmanship,” says Regan.
For Regan, none of her achievements or the initiatives started within Manorhaven and the district would have been possible without the support of the Port Washington School District, she explained.

“The community is fantastic because it’s a mix of everybody,” says Regan. “We’ve got people from all parts of the world. I love the diversity. As far as the district itself goes, I know teachers who have taught in the other cities and they have to use specific resources and teach a certain way. That’s not how it is in Port. We are given the freedom to teach the way we feel the students get the message and the way research shows. That’s special. It’s a great district to be working in.”

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