Winooski Middle School
Nancy Keller, Winooski’s middle school math and science instructor, is truly dedicated to ensuring all middle school students have access to daily high intensity physical activity in their classrooms. According to Laura Graves, one of her colleagues, Keller firmly believes physical activity is a necessity for excelling academically. When Keller previously served as the district’s alternative education instructor, she discovered when students moved more, their focus and their self-confidence improved.
Based on her observations and conversations with a teacher who visited from Wellington, New Zealand who encouraged her to go for it, Keller was inspired to pursue the idea of creating a daily 25 minute physical activity program. After sharing her vision with several faculty, a group of them read and discussed the book “Spark, which focuses on how important physical activity is for academic achievement, she obtained further support. “This has been an evolution – we have had training, purchased equipment, obtained private funding, and gained the commitment from seven middle school faculty members,” said Keller. Christened as Spartans in Motion, the program has become a part of the school’s daily routine. “It’s a way to communicate with our diverse student population. We hold friendly competitions three times a year and provide trophies. I do my best to involve several of our faculty and administrators as judges in the competitions,” she said.
On the day we visited, students moved from multiple stations that included planks, jumping rope, slam ball, balancing, ladder stepping and exercise bands every 30 seconds. “Engaging with the students through physical movement is a perfect way to de-escalate,” Keller said.
Outside of the Spartans in Motion program, Keller, an accomplished student of the martial arts, leads a variety of classes after school, is part of women’s self-defense committee and has trained students and teachers in self-defense. “Keller is a role model for putting students at the center of our school and doing what it takes to help them be successful,” said Anja Mosehauer. “She helps the student advisory group interested in pursuing and developing wellness opportunities for themselves and their peers.”
“Nancy is a rock star, embracing wellness in all aspects of life, leading by example and providing opportunities to promote and support the well-being of colleagues and students,” said Melissa Mintzer, another one of Winooski’s faculty. “She values the importance of these chances for students not only for their physical health but for working toward social emotional goals while gaining self-esteem and independence.”