PSU alum wins national honor for PE teachers
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: June 29, 2020
Clad in a tuxedo and perched on the couch with his family watching a red carpet awards ceremony on Zoom, Portland State University alumnus Todd Stoddard waited to hear who of the five finalists would be the 2020 National Physical Education Teacher of the Year. 

Stoddard expected to hear one of the other finalists’ names called; instead, the honor was his. His reaction to hearing his own name announced as the winner was intense.

 “It was shock, amazement,” said Stoddard, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Health Studies and Master of Arts in Education from PSU. “I was overwhelmed; I was excited.”

Each year, Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE), a nonprofit membership organization, announces the winner following a week-long professional development conference culminating in the awards ceremony. Despite the COVID-19 quarantine, his family kept that formal spirit. Last month, he and his wife, Loni, donned their finery in preparation for the Zoom ceremony and then huddled together with their two sons—Emmitt, 6, and Logan, 4.

Stoddard first landed the Oregon State Teacher of the Year accolade before progressing in the competition to the Western regional level and finally, becoming one of five national finalists. Stoddard is a young teacher, but an accomplished one, with a commitment to research and leadership. He has taught PE at Lakeridge Middle School for four of the seven years he has been an educator, previously teaching at a high school in Washington.

Stoddard participated in the PSU College of Education’s (COE) Secondary Dual Educator Program (SDEP). SDEP provides graduate students with the opportunity to obtain a double endorsement, and his endorsements were in Special Education and General Education. Among his most influential professors were Associate Professor of Practice Sue Bert, Professor of Special Education Ann Fullerton, Professor Emeritus Barbara Ruben and Senior Instructor II Debra Harris. Stoddard said Bert was his mentor and advisor through the SDEP program.

“I still keep in touch with her; she has been an amazing mentor and friend,” Stoddard said. “She has helped me make connections with higher learning institutions, invited me to present in her classes and has been there for me for me anytime I have needed advice.”

Bert was among the faculty members who spread the news of Stoddard’s achievement. 

“During his time with SDEP, Todd was intuitive, fully committed to supporting the success of all students and ready to lead within his coursework and field experiences,” Bert said. “When he finished his two years of study, school districts were eager to welcome his skill set and leadership capacities into their schools. He was a leader from the start!”

When Ruben heard about his win, she said Stoddard was an “exceptionally together” student.

“During the two-year graduate program, he was always dependable, responsible and kind,” said Ruben, who helped develop the SDEP program. “He also wrote beautiful curricula for his students even as a novice teacher candidate. Trained to be a health/PE and special educator, Todd took a math test that allowed him to also be licensed in math.”

Ruben said Stoddard was hired to co-teach math and special/general education math in his first three years of teaching. Stoddard and his co-teacher used data to ascertain ways to address students’ needs, and “for the first time, students who failed math were suddenly successful,” she explained. She said the “principal and district administrators were completely blown away by his ability to reach students who had never before succeeded within a general education math classroom.”

“It is not at all surprising to me that when Todd switched back to teaching his original chosen subject of health and PE, he became an award-winning educator,” Ruben said. “He is truly a gifted teacher. It was an honor to work with him.”

Assistant Professor of Inclusive Teacher Education Molly Baustien Siuty, cohort leader of SDEP, said that Stoddard attended before she arrived at PSU.

“But I am not surprised that such a talented educator came out of SDEP and the mentorship of Sue and Barb,” she said. “What a wonderful testament to this incredible program!”

Stoddard said not only were his professors amazing, his cohort at PSU was tight-knit, going rock climbing and running together. That near-familial closeness was critical to his educational experience.

“It made the experience awesome, and it helped me grow as a person,” he said. “And these are still people I’m going to be friends with for the rest of my life.”

Lessons learned in the SDEP program included knowing that each student is unique, and understanding that what students are passionate about as individuals helps create a safe environment where they can feel confident being active in front of their peers, Stoddard said.

“As a PE teacher, it’s cool to know where kids are shining, and if it’s not in PE and it’s in other places, knowing what really makes them love school is important,” he said. “I can tap into that, and learning that and being able to apply that to what I do now is awesome.”

In a press release, SHAPE lauded Stoddard for his commitment to his field and to his students. Stoddard was instrumental in planning the 2018 Lake Oswego School District professional development conference and presented at the 2019 Oregon SHAPE conference. He also executed a three-year research project on how uniforms affect students’ views on physical education, and suggested the district shift from requiring a school T-shirt to permitting a personalized approach.

He worked with his building administrators and his parent club to acquire the funding for a rock climbing wall at the school. With the help of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Stoddard also became a certified archery instructor and obtained an ODFW grant to acquire competitive archery equipment for his students.

Stoddard said that his classes at PSU taught him that “getting students to step out of their comfort zone” is critical for them to enjoy physical education and to benefit most from it. What’s more, his students in Lake Oswego are not the only ones who Stoddard’s gifts are serving.

“The College of Education has benefited from his expertise in inclusive practices,” Bert said. “Todd has served as a successful adjunct professor with future secondary teachers and offered innovative teaching practices and examples that support student success for all.”

Photo 1: Todd Stoddard pauses near Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, enjoying the day with his wife, Loni, and their sons, from left to right, 4-year-old Logan and 6-year-old Emmitt. Photo courtesy of the Stoddard family

Photo 2: Associate Professor of Practice Sue Bert was a major influence and inspiration for Todd Stoddard, as were Portland State University faculty members Debra Harris, Barbara Ruben and Ann Fullerton.

Photo 3: Assistant Professor of Inclusive Teacher Education Molly Baustien Siuty, cohort leader of the Secondary Dual Educator Program, said she did not have the chance to meet Todd Stoddard, but she has met faculty members Sue Bert and Barbara Ruben, and is not surprised that they inspired Stoddard.

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