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Physical Education Teachers

The Job

Physical education teachers, through participation in individual and team sports, lectures, and other activities, educate students about fitness, nutrition, and general health. They use their knowledge of sports techniques and human physiology to develop exercise plans for students at the kindergarten through high school levels. Physical education programs not only develop the physical abilities of students but also help them to develop personal attributes such as self-discipline, sportsmanship, judgment, communication skills, teamwork, self-confidence, self-esteem, and the ability to set and meet goals. PE teachers may work alone or with one or more PE teachers and may be employed at more than one school.

Physical education teachers use different methods of instruction based on the age of their students. Elementary school physical education teachers use educational games, basic dance, gymnastics, and other activities to help their students develop important motor skills such as throwing, jumping, skipping, hopping, kicking, and catching. Instructors at this level usually teach eight to 10, 30-minute classes daily.

Middle school students require a more systematic and structured approach to physical education. Middle school physical education teachers use traditional sports (such as volleyball and basketball), adventure activities (such as rock climbing, rope climbing, and skiing), and leisure activities (such as inline skating and biking) to help students stay fit. They set performance goals and assess the fitness levels of their students. Middle school PE instructors teach three to six classes daily. These classes last from 60 to 90 minutes.

High school students are much more physically, emotionally, and intellectually developed than elementary and middle school students. They are more likely to choose sports activities based on their own interests, and they take more responsibility for health and fitness choices. While continuing to educate students about traditional, adventure, and leisure activities, high school physical education teachers focus on helping students establish positive habits and attitudes about exercise and fitness. They help students explore and develop their specific sports and fitness interests with the hope that they will continue to remain fitness- and health-conscious during the rest of their lives. High school PE instructors teach three to six classes daily. These classes last from 60 to 90 minutes.

After each class, physical education teachers store equipment that was used during class. They order supplies and new equipment. They might also write up notes on how students performed during the class.

Outside of the gym or fitness center, physical education teachers prepare lesson plans and activities. They evaluate student work and calculate grades. In the process of planning their classes, PE teachers read fitness and health-related magazines, books, and Web sites to learn more about their field. They practice exercises or fitness activities in order to be able to better demonstrate them to students. They also continue to study alternative and traditional teaching methods to hone their skills. PE teachers attend educational conferences to learn more about their field. They attend faculty meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and state and national teacher conferences. Many PE teachers have the opportunity for extracurricular work as athletic coaches. They also monitor students during lunch, break times, and study halls. They may accompany student groups on field trips and to competitions and events. High school PE teachers may be required to teach health classes as part of their duties.

Some physical education teachers are trained to teach those with disabilities. Special physical education is a federally mandated part of special education services. Adapted physical education teachers modify, adapt, and/or change a physical activity so that it can be done by students who have disabilities. Disabilities include intellectual disabilities, orthopedic impairment, speech or language impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, behavioral disorders, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, hearing impairments, and learning disabilities.

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