PE Professor Sara Flory awarded research fellow

Picture of PE Professor Sara Flory

Physical education teachers in urban environments are faced with many challenges; from the lack of green spaces, to lower performing schools, to a more culturally diverse student population. Making a one-size-fits-all curriculum a less than ideal fit for urban student populations. That's where Sara Flory shines. She loves teaching physical education, she's passionate about physical education, and about helping others become great teachers.

"I help students become the best P.E. teachers they can be," said Flory. "We prepare students to teach in high needs schools, high diversity schools, urban schools, because that's the highest need."

An Assistant Professor with the USF College of Education, Flory has been recognized for her research into culturally relevant curriculum and teaching methods. She's one of six recipients of this years' SHAPE America research fellow.

"It's an honor, it's exciting, you're doing the right things, and they want you to continue to do the right things," said Flory. "There's always more than I can do, I want to continue that momentum and this gives me that extra push."

The Society of Health and Physical Educators, or SHAPE America, is an organization of physical education professionals with a mission to advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance, and sport. Award recipients have to be nominated by another research fellow, in Flory's case she was nominated by her USF colleague, Dr. Haichun Sun. The award shines a spotlight on top researchers from around the country, working toward improving physical education in the schools.

"SHAPE America Research Fellow status is reserved for members who have made significant and sustained contributions to research, creative or scholarly activity, as well as related service," said Louis Harrison, chair of the Research Council for SHAPE America. "The purpose of Fellow status is to promote scholarship as an integral component of SHAPE America, recognize research accomplishments by our members, and promote participation in the research activities of the organization."

The graduate program Flory leads is a cohort program, which starts during the junior year, in the spring semester, and continues for five semesters. This includes an internship at an area school. The current cohorts have 15 juniors and 11 seniors. Flory teaches classes in public schools around Tampa, so students are learning concepts while gaining hands-on experience with kids. The school environment also serves as a lab, allowing Flory the opportunity to apply research in actual learning environments. She's part of a group creating a knowledge base of best practices that can make a difference in urban schools.

"We're trying to find ways to encourage kids to be more active in school, with relevant physical education." said Flory. "What we're doing for students that's culturally relevant, that may not come from white, middle-class backgrounds, we're preparing teachers for urban placements on a national level."

But for Flory, it's about more than the research, it's about giving the next generation of teachers the tools to succeed. And hopefully igniting a passion for teaching P.E. while making a positive impact on young students.

"Teaching P.E. is the best job you can have in the entire world, you get to connect with students on such a real level, it's very social because they're not assigned to desks and sitting," said Flory. "You're interacting with them daily, and getting to know them, you get to see their character and see the kinds of people they truly are, and you can help shape that. It's kind of a big deal, and I think that's really cool."

You can find more information about Physical Education Undergraduate and Graduate Online Masters Physical Education programs on the USF College of Education website.