PHOTO Derek Picha teaches physical education at Pima Butte Elementary School and is pursuing a master’s degree. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Derek Picha loved physical education as a kid so much he is now pursuing a master’s degree in PE.

“My favorite part of being an educator is getting to see kids experience that “Ah-ha!” moment every day,” Picha said. “Knowing that students leave my classes with a new skill or idea is truly rewarding.”

Last year, he was nominated for Rookie of the Year in Arizona Health and Physical Education (AzHPE).That is the state’s professional association for health and physical educators. It was his first year at Pima Butte Elementary School.

In February, he organized a Jump Rope for Heart event setting a school goal of raising $2,000 for the American Heart Association. Instead, PBES raised $3,228.

He said it is one of his proudest moments. This year, he said the new goal will be $4,000.

“I greatly enjoy all of the different activities being an educator can lead to,” Picha said. “For example, I get the honor of coaching our sixth grade students at Pima Butte as part of our district’s sixth grade athletics program.  We offer basketball, soccer, and cross country for free to our students.”

Based on research, Picha encourages parents to allow children to get in 30-60 minutes of “play time” before rushing into homework.

His involvement with AzHPE has given him the opportunity to present workshops at the state convention on implementing technology for assessment in physical education. He recently volunteered to serve on the association board.

Picha said he went into education as a career because he wanted to make a difference in the world. Education fulfills that need, he said, but he does believe so much high-stakes testing across the country is interfering with actual learning time.

His move to Maricopa from St. Cloud, Minnesota, was precipitated by cold weather. “I’ve chosen to remain in Maricopa because it has a welcoming feeling to it and I greatly enjoyed my first year of teaching physical education at Pima Butte,” he said.

He is following advice from a former teacher who suggested he start his master’s program before becoming heavily involved in coaching while teaching. He said that turned out to be great advice for his time management.

He has also benefited from St. Cloud State University professors stressing the importance of developing a strong professional learning network.  “As a result, I’ve attended a number of state and regional conferences and workshops and connected with countless like-minded educators throughout the world via social media,” he said.

PHOTO Derek Picha teaches physical education at Pima Butte Elementary School and is pursuing a master’s degree. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Derek Picha teaches physical education at Pima Butte Elementary School and is pursuing a master’s degree. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Derek Picha
Title: Physical Education Teacher
School: Pima Butte Elementary School
Hometown: Mora, Minnesota
Residence: Desert Passage
Education: Bachelor of Science in Health & Physical Education obtained in May 2013 from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Currently pursuing an M.Ed in Physical Education from the University of Arkansas and plan to complete the program by the end of the 2017-18 school year.
Family: Duane Picha (father) and Kristie Picha (sister), both of whom reside in Minnesota.
Teaching positions held: I had one previous position as a part-time health education teacher serving students in grades 7-12 at an alternative school in St. Cloud.
Years in Education: 3
First job out of college: Part-time health education teacher at McKinley Alternative Learning Center in the St. Cloud Area School District.
Hobbies: Exercising, attending sporting events, watching movies
First year with current school: 2014-15
Favorite subject when you were in elementary school? Physical education
What have your students taught you? My students have taught me that a lot can be accomplished in a very short amount of time with the right amount of hard work and determination. This has become clear to me in my brief experience coaching sixth grade sports so far. With short playing seasons in basketball and soccer these kids amaze me with how much they improve from the start of the season to its conclusion.

This story appeared in the December issue of InMaricopa News.

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