AURORA | Clayton Ellis insists that he’s still a Texas football coach at heart.
Before he came to Colorado to teach physical education more than 15 years ago, he worked in a competitive high school setting straight out of “Friday Night Lights.” But his approach to teaching has shifted dramatically since he started teaching at Aurora Central High School more than 10 years ago.
“I was the old-school football guy. That’s what I went into teaching for, but when I worked on the curriculum at Central, it opened my eyes. I changed everything,” said Ellis, who was recently elected president of Colorado Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness. “Instead of kids just showing up and getting a grade for playing, I try to give what I’m teaching more meaning by relating it to a standard.”
Those standards include motor skills, participation and self-motivation. Ellis talks about the “new physical education” designed to spark a lifelong interest in fitness for students through team-based sports or different means like swimming, yoga or dance. Ellis has been an advocate of this approach and he’s helped update Colorado state standards for physical education and traveled cross-country to pick up new ideas about keeping kids healthy.
His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2010, Ellis won the National Physical Education Teacher of the Year award from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Last year, he was appointed to the Colorado Governor’s Council and in December, he was elected president to the council.
Ellis said he already has a list of goals in mind for his term.
“We want to reach out to more martial arts studios and dance studios, just have more of a reach in the community. We want to get more people involved,” Ellis said. “If the Governor has health-related questions, we are the liaison. A big piece of that is educating the public on where we are.”
That means addressing childhood obesity, Ellis said. While Colorado has earned the title of fittest state in the country, Ellis warns that those awards are misleading.
“That data is about Colorado adults,” Ellis said, pointing to statistics from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. “Colorado’s kids are in twenty-ninth place … Even though we’re the fittest state in the country, we are at the point where the worst states were 20 years ago.”
Reversing that trend is Ellis’ priority, whether as a teacher or in his new role, he said.
Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-449-9707