2015 Let’s Move! Active Schools NATIONAL AWARD: Summit School of Ahwatukee ~ the top physical activity and physical education distinction for K-12 schools


Let’s Move! Active Schools, a sub-initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign announced its 2015 National Award honorees.

Summit School of Ahwatukee was one of 15 schools in Arizona and five hundred and twenty-five U.S schools representing 37 states, recognized for their outstanding efforts in creating an Active School environment and increasing physical activity and physical education opportunities for students.

The Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award is the top physical activity and physical education distinction for K-12 schools. The award celebrates a school’s commitment to integrating at least 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after the school day.

“These schools are raising the bar by creating Active School environments where students are happier, healthier, and higher-performing.  I am thrilled with their success through Let’s Move! Active Schools – they’re helping to create a new norm where physical activity is a fundamental aspect of a young person’s success both in the classroom and in life,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

Letter from Michelle Obama to Summit School of Ahwatukee ~ National PE award 2015

This is the second time Summit School of Ahwatukee has earned received this national honor.  “We owe so much to our physical education teacher, Kathy Dean, who has worked tirelessly to help create a culture of health and wellness at Summit,” Head of School Patrick O’Brien proudly shares.

Studies show that Active Kids Do Better. Physical activity not only helps kids stay healthy and strong, but it can also lead to higher test scores, improved attendance, better behavior in class, and enhanced leadership and interpersonal skills.

“The Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award is the nation’s top physical activity and physical education distinction for K-12 schools,” said Charlene Burgeson, Let’s Move! Active Schools Executive Director. “We commend Summit School of Ahwatukee’s exemplary work and commitment to active learning environments. Summit’s faculty, staff and students are paving the way to a healthier, higher-performing and more successful generation of youth.”

To earn a Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award, a school must have met significant benchmarks in five areas: physical education; physical activity before and after school; physical activity during school; staff involvement; and family & community engagement.

Summit School of Ahwatukee’s programs exceed in all these areas, in large part thanks to PE teacher Kathy Dean, who was instrumental in developing Summit’s physical education curriculum focusing on physical and nutritional health. She also initiated the middle school sports program, and created a before school running club at which 50 or more students and parents voluntarily run or walk on the school’s field twice each week.

Dean began and continues to organize the annual family turkey trot, and the school’s field day, which also focuses on developing leadership in middle school students who help run the event. Last year she held a successful pedometer challenge for the school’s teachers and staff, encouraging healthy goals for daily steps.

Students benefit academically from Dean’s initiatives as she provides training to staff, sharing “brain break” activities teachers successfully use in the classroom to help young minds stay fresh and engaged.

However, from the student’s perspective the most important and best loved initiate of Dean’s is the daily morning recess / snack break enjoyed by kindergarten through eighth grade students. In addition to lunch recess, students thank her in spirit each day as they enjoy ten minutes on the playground tire jumper, shooting hoops, running on the field, or simply chatting with classmates as they enjoy a healthy snack. “We all need a break to stay fresh and motivated,” explains Dean.

Why does she do it? “The biggest reward for me is the tremendous buy in from the entire school community: teachers, staff, parents and kids, to lead healthy, active lives,” says Dean with visible warmth.  “It is true that active kids are more successful academically, but they are also happier. You can actually feel the joy of students, teachers and parents on Summit’s campus. It is wonderful to experience.”

Honorees are provided with a banner, certificate and congratulatory letter from the First Lady. Recognition packages were generously sponsored by BOKS, Build Our Kids’ Success, a free before- and during-school physical activity program aimed at getting kids’ bodies moving and their brains ready to learn.