Dec. 2, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU physical education professors earn statewide awards
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Two Slippery Rock University physical education faculty members have received prestigious awards for their leadership in the trendsetting fields of outdoor education and lifelong fitness.
Gary Clark, assistant professor of physical education, has been named Teacher of the Year for his expertise in child and adolescent fitness, an important tool for combating obesity. Instructor Jeffrey Smith, whose real-life experience includes expeditions to the Himalayan Mountains and Italian Alps, has been named Outdoor Educator of the Year.
The awards are from the Pennsylvania State Association for Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance, which encourages active, healthy lifestyles for all Pennsylvanians.
"This award is for physical educators in higher education. There are a lot of outstanding physical educators in higher education in Pennsylvania, so it's an honor to be nominated, let alone win," Clark said.
"I am passionate about outdoor education, so it's nice to be recognized by an association that shares our educational values," Smith said.
Clark, who joined SRU in 2008, teaches "Assessment Strategies" and "Motor Development and Learning." He received his doctorate in developmental movement from the University of Pittsburgh, where his research focused on the effect of physical activity on children's cognitive function.
He said 30 minutes of physical activity a day helps children keep their weight down and improves cognitive function, including alertness and reaction times.
"Physical activity is a key to lifelong fitness," Clark said. "For children, physical activity can be accomplished on the playground, by participating in a pick-up sports game, playing games with parents or swimming. Exercise is more structured and includes gym work, strength training and aerobic activity."
Prior to joining SRU, Clark taught and coached at the North Hills School District in suburban Pittsburgh. He led efforts to launch in-line skating and flag football and coached football, track and field, swimming, basketball, baseball and wrestling.
He continues to show leadership in promoting physical activity in children by coordinating, volunteering and working in children's camps and teaching swimming lessons. These experiences have emphasized promoting physical activity for everyone, a concept that Clark has exhibited through his involvement in programs for children with special needs, including programs through the University of Pittsburgh and Special Olympics.
Smith, who joined SRU in 2000, teaches "Cross Country Skiing," "Introduction to Rock Climbing" and "Introduction to Kayaking," among others.
He has spent his entire career involved in outdoor education, recreation and leading adventure trips. He has been involved in rock climbing, mountaineering, surfing and white-water kayaking expeditions in various locations in the U.S., Mexico and Europe, as well as the rivers of Nepal.
"My goal is to introduce an activity and a sport that students can do for the rest of their lives," Smith said.
He has presented research and lectured at state, national and international conferences, including the International Boating Summit. The Chinese recently invited Smith to share his expertise on outdoor education with five universities.
Smith has a master of science in national resource management and environmental education from SRU. He has served as coordinator for Outdoor Programs at Youth Alternatives in Northwestern Pennsylvania and the Center for Outdoor Recreation Experience at Edinboro University.
Clark and Smith received the awards at the association's annual convention last week at the Pittsburgh Hilton.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives