There is a strong demand for physical activity (PA) professional development (PD) in Tennessee, where elementary school students are required to get at least 130 minutes of PA and middle and high school students at least 90 minutes of PA at school every week. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) offered this PD for free and in person annually. In 2020, it changed to a virtual environment that continued in the 2021–2022 school year.
In 2021, using a universally accessible platform, TDOE designed a 5-day live, virtual event attended by 277 teachers, lead educators, principals, administrators, and support staff, who received a total of 2,727 PD hours and had a 96% agree/strongly agree evaluation rating. The event consisted of 5 skills-based trainings and 24 webinars to connect participants with resources and instructional strategies for creating and supporting a physically active school culture and learning environment. All participants reported improved skills to implement school health strategies because of the PD.
TDOE also has 24 new, on-demand physical activity/education modules that are available online for anyone in the state. Thus far, 1,345 recorded webinar modules have been completed for on-demand physical activity/education PD credit. That number will certainly increase as more educators learn of the availability of these modules.
From this experience, TDOE identified new target audiences that could benefit from the webinar modules, including health educators, lifetime wellness teachers, school administrators, and classroom teachers. Communication efforts will ensure that these audiences know the modules are for more than just physical education teachers. TDOE conducted a follow-up survey on the skills-based trainings to assess trainee’s readiness to implement what was learned. One respondent wrote, “Just making a conscious effort to focus more on my students’ lives besides just when they are at school and realizing the school’s setting may be their only safe or happy place. It really makes me think twice about how I interact, teach, and motivate students.”