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Fitness and fun abound at Emerald Hill 5K
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Fitness and fun abound at Emerald Hill 5K

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Emerald Hill Elementary School teachers and staff members came together for a morning of fun and fitness during the inaugural Emerald Hill Elementary Virtual Staff Bonding 5K last Wednesday.

Approximately 60 of the school’s employees participated in the event, with many of them running or walking the trails at Yowell Meadow Park. They were rooted on by several of their colleagues, who formed a makeshift cheering section near the start/finish line.

The goal of the 5K was to promote mental and physical wellness among teachers, staff and students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the summer, EHES principal Tori Gelbert became concerned that the decreased time together between teachers and students in a traditional classroom setting due to the pandemic would have a very adverse affect on both parties’ mental and physical health.

Gelbert, a former high school cross country and track coach, wasted no time taking action.

“Before school started, but after teachers had reported [in early August], I walked around and talked to teachers and staff about how they were feeling,” Gelbert told the Star-Exponent last month. “Naturally, the conversations led to the importance of taking care of ourselves and making sure we are healthy—both mentally and physically.”

After those conversations with her team, Gelbert knew she was on to something.

“Many of the staff [already] had goals of starting to work out,” she said.

With the teachers and staff on board, Gelbert added the virtual part. She came up with a concept where each participant would make a short video of themselves either just before starting or right after finishing their 5K.

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Following the conclusion of the event, all of the videos were combined to create a single video that students can view online.

“In the climate we’re currently in, I knew making a video of our dedicated staff members participating in an activity that’s great for both your physical and mental fitness would be the best way to reach our students,” Gelbert said. “We want to show them that we, as adults, continue to value healthy habits and encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle.”

The final product, which was posted on Gelbert’s YouTube account Wednesday afternoon, contained not only each participant’s individual video, but also photos from the 5K and the training that they underwent in the two months leading up to it.

“The event was amazing,” Gelbert said Wednesday night. “I’m so proud of everyone who took part in it, either by participating in the 5K itself, cheering on those who did or helping out with race bags and refreshments.”

Several local businesses and community members stepped forward to donate items like race bibs, water, granola bars, coupons to local restaurants and various other treats that went into the race bags.

Adding to the fun and engagement for the participants was the announcement of several awards. The award winners were as follows:

  • Most spirit: Erica Hoy (special education teacher)
  • Best costume: Mandy Tuel-Roberts (first-grade teacher)
  • Grinder award (not the fastest, but tried the hardest): Nancy Nelson, (office staff)
  • Fastest team: Third-grade teachers (Caryn Shaffer, Hope Callahan, Teresa Chernay, Kimmy Moon, Erin Bridges, and Annie Burgh)
  • Fastest male runner: Frank Luke (fifth-grade teacher)
  • Fastest female runner: Caroline Roman (second-grade teacher)

“It was an amazing experience,” Chernay said. “But I think the best part of it was leading up the past two months, because we’ve been working as a team, thinking about our health, making good choices together and just rooting each other on.”

Moon is hopeful that all of the hard work and effort she and her teammates put into the entire process will have a positive effect on students.

“I think that this will motivate and encourage them to get out there and do something like this,” she said. “If they see their teachers and staff members doing something like this and that we all got so into it, hopefully it will resonate with them.”

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