BANGOR, Maine — Jason Pangburn lined the edge of his gymnasium with folding chairs as he would for any assembly. He placed orange cones to section off areas for pupils in specific grades. He took his seat at the back of the gym and waited as the room began to fill up.
Pangburn had no idea the assembly was for him.
Tim McCluskey, principal of the Vine Street Elementary School, gathered children and staff in the gymnasium Thursday morning under the guise of a discussion about the importance of attendance.
Instead, McCluskey announced that the State Department of Education recently selected Pangburn as Maine’s elementary school physical education teacher of the year.
The 37-year-old educator, like most good teachers, deflected praise.
“This is such a great place to come to school each day,” he said, adding later that the school’s administration has always been supportive of his ideas.
Bangor Superintendent Betsy Webb, who was on hand to help present the award, praised Pangburn for the passion, energy and creativity he brings to his job. McCluskey agreed that Pangburn was overwhelmingly deserving of the recognition.
“There is a lot he does behind the scenes that most of us don’t see,” the principal said.
For Pangburn, who is responsible for the health and wellness of more than 200 pupils from kindergarten through third grade, his philosophy is simple: Keep them moving.
“Physical education is always changing, but there is more of a focus today on skill development, which kids can carry well into adulthood,” he said.
One of Pangburn’s successful initiatives was a schoolwide Winter Olympics last year.
“He gets kids excited about fitness and wellness,” Webb said. “As with anything, students are not all at the same level, but his approach ensures that everyone has the same opportunities.”
After the brief assembly, Pangburn, who is in his eighth year as physical education teacher at Vine Street School, patiently conducted interviews with members of the news media.
By Thursday afternoon, he was back in the gym with pupils doing what he always does.