By Lucie Shelly
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
During the next five weeks, the teachers of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro public schools aren’t just running the coordination of the classroom — they’re running the track for their students and for themselves.
The first annual 5K for Education, which will take place in Carrboro on April 28, was previously an addition to the Walk for Education that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation held in the fall. This year it is not only a separate event, but organizers have also expanded the race by incorporating a six-week training program leading up to the event.
“This is our first year, the pilot year, that we are partnering with the wellness program in the school system in order to conduct the race,” says Kim Hoke, executive director of the PSF.
The six-week training program invites teachers who have signed up for the race to participate in training sessions that are held at their individual schools and at Fleet Feet Sports on East Main Street in Carrboro.
The training sessions at each of the schools are promoted and led by parent mentors and a staff mentor of the PSF. Each week has a different theme; week one was hydration.
The training program was conceived as an all-welcoming fitness incentive for the teachers, says Christine Cotton, the event chair.
“It’s based on the program Fleet Feet use,” says Cotton. “We really want to motivate the teachers. Fleet Feet allows the teachers to pop in on the fitness and training programs they mentor at the store. Between Fleet Feet and the PSF, this is our gift to the teachers.”
Both Hoke and Cotton say that the program and race have had an impressive response.
“We are extremely pleased,” says Hoke. “There are more than 200 teachers and staff already signed up.”
The sooner they hit the track the better. For the teachers and staff who signed up by March 11, there was a discount on running gear at Fleet Feet, and Hoke explains that there will be further incentives in the schools.
Teachers and staff are offered a variety of encouraging boosts, from raffle prizes to award bags, during both the training component and the race component of the overall 5K for Education.
The parent mentors at each school not only oversee the training sessions, they are also responsible for encouraging teachers to sign up for the program and the race. The school with the most teachers will win a prize at the end of the program.
Hoke reveals that so far, Morris Grove Elementary is in the lead with 18 teachers signed up. Melanie Reynolds, the head parent mentor at the school, says the response could be due to the way the program and race have been promoted as something the teachers can do for themselves — and the ways that the mentors have worked within the school environment.
“Last week we took the morning announcement and played that song ‘Everybody Dance Now,’” says Reynolds. “Then we said, ‘OK kids, ask your teachers, are they gonna run the 5K?’ And then we said, ‘We can’t hear you!’ And it was cute, you could hear all the kids down the hallway cheering ‘5K! 5K!’”
In addition, Reynolds says that a big banner with the names of the teachers who have signed up has been strategically placed outside the teachers’ break room.
“It gets high visibility. It’s a way for the teachers to be a role model for their students,” says Reynolds.
Both Hoke and Cotton explain that the overall goal is about getting people involved and offering teachers a chance to boost their health and fitness, regardless of their level.
“Even those who aren’t runners can start walking,” says Hoke.
Cotton echoed this openness. “We’re just being so flexible,” she says. “You walk or run twice a week at your school and then at Fleet Feet. This week it could be 20 minutes, and next week maybe it’s 25. You just slowly bring it up and build up confidence.”
Reynolds also said the importance of individuality within the program is the most outstanding element of the 5K for Education.
“It’s not just as with any other race,” she says. “It’s personalized. We’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a journey. Start training now, and you start training for life.’ We’re great caregivers, but we don’t take great care of ourselves.”
The accessibility and the message of welcome seem to have reached this year’s participants. On a Friday afternoon at McDougle Middle School, a shy but curious group of teachers gather for a training session with parent mentor Meredith Bolon and with a 5K walk or run as the goal.
“This is my first one,” says French teacher Jennifer Sparrow. “It’s a wonderful idea. I’m kind of nervous, but I think it will be fun.”
With that, Bolon calls the teachers to attention and training begins. And like a good group of students, everyone pays close attention.
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