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Local P.E. teachers and coaches reflect on helping kids stay physically fit

Clancy PE Teacher
MT City PE Teachers
EastGate PE Teacher
Central PE Teacher
Posted at 1:01 PM, May 25, 2023

HELENA — “P.E. was definitely my favorite subject,” said former Montana Western Bulldog Savanna Bignell.

Physical Education teachers around the community not only teach students to play countless sports, but also how physical activity can benefit their overall health.

Bignell played basketball for the Capital High Bruins before heading to Dillon in 2016 where she earned her degree in education.

“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a (P.E.) teacher,” said Bignell who now works in Montana City.

Bignell collaborates with her co-worker and friend Derek Jenneskens who also played sports in high school and college.

“A lot of my role models were P.E. teachers and; or coaches so, just having the opportunity to be that for other students,” said Jenneskens.

Jenneskens and Bignell both student-taught in East Helena before making the leap to Montana City Schools.

Jeff Beaver, who teaches at Central and Warren Elementary schools, is in his 30th year working in the Helena School District. He also works as a wildland firefighter in the summertime.

“We’re all kind of on the same page on what we’re teaching in case a child may transfer from one school to another, we’re all about teaching the same thing at the same time,” says Beaver.

Tana Fetherston, who also works at multiple schools in the East Helena school district graduated from the University of Montana and has been teaching physical education for the previous 11 years.

“The first two years, you’re just kind of surviving and figuring everything out,” said Fetherston.

During the weekdays, you can find her doing what she loves at either Eastgate Elementary or Prickly Pear Elementary school.

“It was something I’ve always wanted to be and I had a great fifth grade P.E. teacher named Mrs. Storm in Great Falls from Lincoln elementary and she just really made me love it,” added Fetherston who looks to instill similar beliefs in her young scholars.

Another collegiate athlete turned educator is Lindsay Wangerin. She is currently in her third-year teaching health and physical education in Clancy.

“Yes, there’s kind of a second-grade legend that I played basketball (in college), but I threw the Javelin in college,” Wangerin noted. She still holds the school records at Plentywood High School and NDSU in the javelin.

Though she is prepping for end-of-the-year field day, Wangerin noted she can't wait to have them come back in the fall.

“It’s always so nice to have the kids back, I miss them over summer,” said Wangerin “You know, I am kind of lucky, P.E.’s the fun class, so they’re always excited to get back and get back into all of the games."

Although celebrating the end of the school year with physical education can seem exciting and fun. Our local PE teachers around the greater Helena area have to also plan activities that assist in creating exercise-based learning more engaging for students of all ages.

Editor's note: This article has been edited for clarity.