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Sexton Mountain's Joel Miller named Oregon Physical Education Teacher of the Year

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: RAY PITZ - Joel Miller was recently named the 2015 Oregon Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Oregon Society of Health and Physical Educators. He received the award at Pacific University in Forest Grove on Oct. 10. When one team beats another in a sporting competition at Sexton Mountain Elementary School, Joel Miller doesn’t congratulate the winners. Rather, he’ll talk about growth or let the losing team know it’s OK to fail.

“The focus is on a growth mindset, rather than outcome,” he said.

With that positive outlook on competition always on his mind, Miller was recently named the 2015 Oregon Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Oregon Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE for short). SHAPE honored Miller during the organization’s annual conference on Oct. 10 at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Miller, who has spent the last four years at Sexton Mountain, said he was surprised to learn he was selected for the honor.

“I did not know it was coming,” he said. “It was a nice compliment.”

Collin Brooks, immediate past president of Oregon SHAPE, said Miller was nominated for the Oregon SHAPE Physical Education Teacher of the Year because “he exudes what it is to be a 21st century physical educator.

“He is innovative, hard-working, a great leader and a very humble person,” said Brooks. “I know that the students that Joel teaches are learning the skills necessary to become a physical literate person.”

Miller, 39, said he loves teaching everyone from Sexton Mountain kindergartners (whom he describes as enthusiastic to try new things) through fifth-graders (who have honed their athletic skills over the course of six years).

“My goal is to teach healthy habits from the get-go,” said Miller, who previously spent 12 years at Greenway Elementary School.

By the time students leave the school, Miller wants them to have the confidence to try new activities and continue with the activities they already love.

He said he believes teaching lifelong healthy habits is a team effort and often reminds his students that “we only get one body.” As a teacher, he focuses much of his energy on reminding students to be good sports as well as solving problems and playing well with one another.

Miller said his goal is to get students comfortable with something basic such as dribbling a basketball before throwing them into a full-court game.

“If you just jump into the activity or sport, you’re going to lose a lot of them,” he said. “You layer their development.”

Miller said a welcome new addition to the Sexton Mountain physical education program is a rock-climbing wall donated by the Sexton Mountain Parent Teacher Club.

“They love it,” said Miller. “They love the challenge.”

Even students who are initially petrified are happy when they get the hang of it, he pointed out. It’s the same expression students have after mastering a jump rope or hula hoop.

“The look on their faces is amazing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miller said the Beaverton School District has set the bar high regarding physical education classes by extending the class periods. Also, Sexton Mountain is part of a pilot project school for Active Students, a program that focuses on physical movement by beginning classes each day with a “brain boost,” a way to get students moving through physical movement and exercise.

Miller is married to his wife Jenny, a teacher at Nancy Ryles Elementary School. They are the parents of two children, Hoby, 9, and Siena, 7.