How Supporting My Student’s Health & Fitness Journey Changed Me as a Teacher

By Justin Shiroma posted 07-31-2017 18:38


As teachers, we are sometimes asked to wear many different hats. Depending on the situation, we might serve as nutritionist, coach, cheerleader, fan or advocate. I wore all of these hats in support of Cody, one of my students at Leilehua High School.

Cody is an exceptional student, the kind of student we all dream about: hard working, smart and respectful. But, Cody is more than those things — he is an achiever.

HLpic.pngFrom left: Barry McCorkell, vice principal, Cody Retuta, and Justin Shiroma
of Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, HI.

When I became Cody’s teacher, he was working on a video project — as part of a contest sponsored by the Hawaii Department of Education and Hawaii AHPERD — that would document his personal fitness plan and efforts to meet specific fitness goals. He had already started his journey to a healthier lifestyle and had lost an incredible 40 pounds in five months.

Cody needed guidance, however, because many of the habits he had adopted — although they produced weight loss — were not conducive to a long-term healthy lifestyle.

So, in addition to being his teacher I also put on my nutritionist hat. I needed to educate Cody on responsible eating and workout habits that would help him to meet his goals. By teaching him to be more aware of nutrient intake, we were able to come up with a plan that was more sustainable and health-enhancing. My second goal was to put Cody on a monitored fitness program in which he would come in for training four times a week during his lunch period.

When I put on my coach hat, I became responsible for creating a plan that would help develop the muscular endurance Cody needed to reach his goals. I chose a plan which emphasized resistance training to build a strong foundation of muscle in order to increase muscle mass and decrease injury.

My final hats did not come into play until I got to know Cody. Cody is an exceptional archer and cinematographer. He has entered many contests and performed well. During the 2015-16 school year, Cody took first place at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) state competition, and this past year he placed third. In a SkillsUSA video competition, he placed third as well. Although I believed that these were great accomplishments, Cody wished he had done better. I knew this was my chance to be a cheerleader and a fan — someone to root for him and cheer his achievements.

It was at the end of the Cody’s video project that I realized the one hat Cody needed me to wear all along was that of advocate, someone to support him in success and failure. I knew this is what I had really done for Cody. I believe one of the reasons he worked so hard on the and met his goals was because he knew I believed he could and would support him no matter what.

Cody has changed me as a teacher and I am truly proud of him.

I am a physical education teacher at Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, HI, and a member of SHAPE America. My student, Cody Retuta, recently won first place in the 2017 State PE Fair for his video submission documenting the achievement of his fitness goals. The contest was sponsored by the Hawaii Department of Education and Hawaii AHPERD.




10-16-2017 15:42

Hi Justin,
Thanks so much for sharing! I truly enjoyed reading about you and Cody's journey. I am currently a health and physical education student at West Chester University and as a future educator it is so nice hearing about the connections teacher and students have. I especially enjoyed the part about the nutritionist hat. It shed some light on how important health education is and how students need us to teach them how to make choices to live a long-term healthy lifestyle. Stories like this show how important it is for students to have positive role models that offer guidance and advocate for their best interest!

10-15-2017 17:49

Thanks so much for the inspirational story of Cody's journey. I also want to thank you for being there for him along the way. As a student in West Chester University's Health and Physical Education Teacher Certification program it's great to see all of the "hats" a teacher has to wear as a part of their job. Thanks again and keep up the good work!
Tyler Everhart
HPETC West Chester University
West Chester PA

08-15-2017 08:41

Justin and Cody,  This is a terrific and exemplary model of what all professionals in the field of Health and Physical Education aim to do. Thank you for sharing this; it is motivational and inspiring!  

08-05-2017 05:14

Justin: I'd like to thank you, the Hawaii Department of Education, and Hawaii AHPERD for designing this innovative project. Cody's work is simply outstanding!!  Please keep up the good work!!