Three Decades of Fitness and Fun at RES

Courtesy of the Herald, April 23, 2015

by Martha Slater

Now in his 30th year as the physical education teacher at Randolph Elementary School, Todd Keenhold clearly loves his chosen career.

During a recent interview with The Herald on a sunny afternoon just after school let out, he sat on the stone wall just outside the school entrance to talk about what he does.

“I was a ‘gym rat’—always at the gym or pool or a game,” he recalled. “I was the bat boy for the Dartmouth baseball team and always in involved with athletics—either as an athlete, a spectator, or with my family.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education with a teaching certificate from Ithaca College, and later received an M.Ed. from UVM. 

First Teaching Job

“I got the job here right out of college in 1985. I was 22,” he said. “We didn’t have a preschool then and there were 485 students in three buildings—the Randolph Village School on Main Street, the Randolph Center School (little red school house next to VTC), and the East Randolph School down in the valley. I traveled in between them in all kinds of weather. Now we have about 300 students and there’s just one elementary building.”

Keenhold said his training was “to teach lifelong skills and a variety of movements and activities, whereas the old school of thought for phys ed was to prepare kids for varsity sports. But, the reality is that, by high school, only about 10% of them will play on a sports team, and you want to inspire the others to have lifelong healthy habits. Some of the newer things we have here are climbing walls, cooperative games where the group works together to accomplish a task, and team building.

“First and foremost, I want the kids to enjoy moving and enjoy our time together in the gym,” he added. “If they think it’s fun to move, they’ll do more of it.”

Keenhold said he thinks the social skills they work on daily, like sportsmanship, teamwork, cooperation, taking turns, and fair play, “are just as important as fitness and health. They build character. We’re not only raising kids to be fit, we’re raising them to be socially responsible.

“I do some traditional sports activities, but I do a lot more of the lead-up activities to things like soccer. We do a lot of fitness challenges with kids in grades 3-6, where they earn scores throughout the year and work on improving their own personal scores. It’s not a competition, but there are national norms, so the kids can get an idea of what other kids their age are able to do.”

For the last four years, Randolph Elementary School has been recognized with the Fit and Healthy Kids School Wellness Award by the Vermont Department of Health. This honor recognizes Vermont schools whose policies and practices reflect a high priority on healthy outcomes for children and that support a culture of health and wellness for employees. Schools are assessed on physical education programs, health education, wellness policies and implementation plans, food services, guidance support, school nurse responsibilities, community resources, and administrative support.

One event that Keenhold has done with the kids for the past three decades is the annual Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraiser and educational program through the American Heart Association.

“The kids will have a big jump-athon the last week of April in their PE classes,” he explained, noting proudly that “We usually raise between $3000-$5000 each year.” 

Super Volunteer

Every fall for the past 30 years, Keenhold has also organized the Run for Health. It takes place on the athletic fields behind Randolph Union High School and is open to all kids in Randolph, Braintree, and Brookfield, with each of the runners earning a ribbon.

“I’d really like to have a community committee take over the organization of that event,” he said. “I’d still help, but I think it’s time for me to step back.”

Keenhold has done a lot of other volunteer work, including coaching/ umpiring Little League baseball and softball for 23 years, working with Randolph Youth Gymnastics for 20 years. He has been the wellness coordinator for employees of the OSSU schools since 1992, served as the state coordinator of Jump Rope for Heart for 14 years, and in many other ways worked in his free time to advance fitness, especially for young people.

Keenhold and his wife, Beth, a dance teacher, live in Braintree, and have three grown children who have obviously inherited their parents’ love of being active. Their daughter, Bryn, is now a park ranger with the National Park Service, and will be working in Wellfleet, Mass. on Cape Cod this summer. Rhys is a student at Johnson State College, where he plays lacrosse; and Vaughn is a student at the University of Maine at Farmington, where he plays on the Ultimate Frisbee team. 

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