One former St. Peter teacher is being recognized for her work then and now.
Kirsten Guentzel of St. Peter won the MNSHAPE Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award on Oct. 17 at the Minnesota Society of Health and Physical Educators (MNSHAPE) awards banquet.
A physical education teacher at Sibley East Elementary and former teacher at St. Peter, Guentzel graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in Health Education & Physical Education in 2010. She taught at Minnesota State University-Mankato for one year as an Adjunct Professor and completed her licensure in Development/Adapted Physical Education.
Guentzel has been teaching in the public schools for the last eight years, primarily teaching elementary physical education, D/APE and Health. She received her master’s of science degree in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2015.
She has presented at SHAPE America Conventions across the nation, including Indianapolis, Boston, Minneapolis and Tampa, Florida. She flew to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for SpeakOut Day with her colleagues to advocate for funding of physical education and health programs across the nation. Guentzel also served on the Minnesota Department of Education’s Physical Education Standards Review Committee as Co-Chair of the Elementary Division.
Guetzel has received 11 grants in the last three years. She pioneered a program in St. Peter Public Schools called, Take 20. She took an empty classroom and created a virtual cycling experience. She received grants to fill the room with 30 small bikes, placed onto training stands, similarly as cyclists would train indoors. Students would peddle for 20 minutes along with a video played on the SmartBoard of real cyclists riding in different countries.
She also led Mindfulness and Yoga classes in an empty classroom and created two other fitness stations in the school where students had scheduled daily movement breaks.
“I was nominated for the award after having received six grants during the 2017-2018 school year while teaching Physical Education for Saint Peter Public Schools,” Guentzel said. “The grants included: Education Foundation Grant to develop a virtual cycling class at North Elementary, two SHIP Grants for movement break equipment and healthy habit signage in the building, and other grants/donations from DonorsChoose, Gretchen Rehm of Horace Mann, and the PCO for Mini Putt Golf equipment.”
Most recently, Guentzel was recognized nationally by SHAPE America for piloting a new program in 2018-19 called, health.moves.minds., at Sibley East Elementary.
“It received national publicity through commercials, journal distributions and other promotional materials,” Guentzel said. “The program focused on inclusion, mindfulness and kindness in school culture. Students have made monumental changes in their ability to be selfless, giving individuals. School staff report these changes on a daily basis. One of the activities Guentzel facilitated was having students create bookmarks with inspirational messages. Then students hid them in the school library books for children to find upon checking out a book.”
In just a few short months of this school year, Guentzel and her co-teacher Brian Biermann have raised more than $20,000 for their physical education department. They received overwhelming support from local Fire Departments, Lions Clubs, VFW, Rotary, Sertoma, Conservation Partners, GPL, Knights of Columbus, and the PCO to get a horizontal climbing wall in the elementary gymnasium.
Guentzel also received two statewide grants this fall: DNR Archery in Schools Grant and MN GPA Golf in Schools Grant. She is excited to bring these new opportunities to the K-5 Elementary School.
“It is vital to expose children to activities in which they can become physically literate individuals and lead healthy lives,” Guentzel said.