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School Wellness Weekly

June 23, 2023

Happy Summer! Thank You For Helping Students Stay Safe, Active, and Ready to Learn
“To our teachers and school staff, I am honored to work together with you to make sure our students learn the skills to be healthy, lifelong learners.” 
--Danika Rux, Deputy Chancellor (A.I.) of School Leadership 
Thank you to the New York City Public Schools community of educators for providing students with quality instruction, allyship, advocacy skills, and trusted relationships. Without well-trained and prepared teachers and school staff who show up for students every day, this school system would not be able to sustain its commitment to prioritizing wellness and its link to student success.    
We are honored to share a video message (opens in new window) from Deputy Chancellor (A.I.) of School Leadership Danika Rux to all the teachers, school leaders, and staff who attended the Office of School Wellness Programs’ June 8 professional learning conference. This year we had an impressive 2,059 attendees—more than any previous year. Enjoy your summer, and we look forward to working with this powerful group of educators, partners, and families in 2023-2024! 
School Wellness Weekly will be on summer hiatus and will return in September with more resources and opportunities. In the meantime: 

  • Be on the lookout for New York City Public Schools’ new HIV Curriculum in Fall 2023. Educators, get a head start on understanding the inclusive content and engaging features of this new curriculum by watching a 30-minute, self-guided Introduction to HIV Education course on WeLearn NYC (opens in new window)

  • School leaders, Office of School Wellness Programs staff are here throughout the summer to help you with programming support for PE and Health Education, and to answer any questions about requirements and best practices as you plan for 2023-2024. Contact your borough support team (opens in new window)

Photo by Krisanne Johnson
Congratulations! 2023 Big Apple Physical Education Teacher Finalists and Winner
On June 20, Kelly McGuire, District 2 Superintendent, and Manhattan’s River School principal, Jessica Orleans, presented the 2023 Big Apple Award in Physical Education (opens in new window) to Physical Education teacher Daniel Matos (“Coach D”) and his class of very surprised students. Along to celebrate were representatives from New York Road Runners (opens in new window), the award sponsor, along with members of the Office of School Wellness Programs, Community School District 2, and the River School community. 
The Office of School Wellness Programs proudly recognizes Daniel Matos and the six Big Apple Physical Education award finalists selected for their success in inspiring students, modeling high-quality PE instruction, and enriching their school communities. We asked each of these recognized PE teachers to share a few thoughts about their inspiration and accomplishments, and any advice for other PE teachers. 

Photo credits: Provided courtesy of Big Apple PE Award awardees.
2023 Big Apple Physical Education Awardee: Daniel Matos, PS 281 The River School (02M281) 

Daniel Matos teaches at PS 281 in District 2, in Manhattan, and is a graduate of the 2018 Pathways to PE Alternative Certification Program provided by the Office of School Wellness Programs. Daniel is proud of how his students have embraced inclusion and diversity this year in his PE classroom, and he knows that Physical Education develops character, integrity, and interpersonal relationships, while prioritizing physical literacy. 

“Physical Education is the best subject in the world,” he says. “I love how physicality, interpersonal relationship dynamics, and application of conceptual knowledge come together to create learning experiences that can positively affect and impact a child’s life. There are many benefits to movement that go beyond physiological health, and I love being able to contribute to developing students’ curiosity, self-expression, sense of purpose, and most importantly, confidence through skill development and play.” 

“I am repeatedly inspired by my community, and I try my best to help build environments that emphasize belonging. In my opinion, our connection to others serves as the foundation for our health, wellness, and overall happiness. There is nothing better than seeing when students enjoy working together.” 

Daniel’s advice to PE teachers: “Find a way to use what you’re good at in your classroom. Find a way to leverage what’s unique to you and allow yourself to be present and engaged in your own teaching practice. That’s the kind of authenticity that will help students gravitate and connect to your lessons and inspire them to embrace what is unique in themselves.”
Finalist: John DeMatteo, P.S.126 Jacob August Riis (02M126) 

“My proudest accomplishment as a teacher has been the creation of the NYC middle school sports league, which provides opportunities in after school sports for over 160 middle and elementary schools in NYC. I get to affect students from my city in addition to my school. My advice to my fellow teachers is, never underestimate the impact you are having on children.” 
Finalist: Christine Drago, P.S. Anna Silver School (01M020) 

“Remember to be reflective of your teaching practice. We are all going to have lessons that don't go as planned, or bad days. What counts is how you shake it off, bounce back, and remember to be flexible.” 
Finalist: Thomas “TJ” Fama, P.S. 224 (75Q224) 

“My inspiration comes from my students when I see their faces light up when they enter the gym. This job is extremely rewarding, and there is nothing better than seeing the face of a student who becomes successful at a new skill that they never thought they could perform. Those happy moments, those beautiful smiles inspire me.” 
Finalist: Nicole Hare, P.S. 51 The Elias Howe School (02M051) 

“I am proud that I can collaborate with my community to help develop and advocate for physical literacy, and I am proud that I continue to develop as an educator and move my practice forward.” 
Finalist: Ciara Morse, P.S. 94 David D. Porter School (26Q094) 

“One of the most important aspects of our jobs (as PE teachers) is to make sincere connections with our students. Students who trust their teachers want to perform better and try harder. Gaining respect from students is key to a successful and cooperative classroom. Students will follow your lead!” 
Finalist: Richard Scott, P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen (14K147) 

“Every interaction with your students is an opportunity not only to uplift and support them individually but also to contribute to the collective fabric of the community. Embrace these moments as powerful agents of change and transformation, for your guidance and dedication hold the potential to shape and enrich the lives of both students and the larger community in meaningful ways.
What’s in This Virtual Backpack? Summer Wellness Resources!
The school year is coming to a close, but New York City and trusted partners provide valuable free resources all summer long to keep students, families, and caregivers healthy and physically active. See below for a virtual “backpack” of summer opportunities, and share widely with your networks. 

Stay Active 

Stay Healthy and Well  

  • Need to access sexual health services? Receive low to no-cost services from NYC Sexual Health Clinics (opens in new window). Services offered include sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and HIV, contraception, and Mpox services. 

  • Low-Cost Dental Services for NYC Residents: Dial 311 to receive help with finding a dentist, dental insurance, and copies of written oral health educational materials at no cost, in appropriate languages. To find clinics near you, visit NYC Health Map and search by zip code or view the full list by borough (opens in new window). All types of insurance accepted and assistance for those without.