Q&A with Colleen C. Corsi

By David L Podos

Promoting health and physical education in schools is the main mission of Little Falls-based NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, says executive director

Q: Many readers may not know about your agency, the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Inc. Give us a little background about the agency and what are the primary services you provide?

A: We are a professional association that provides development for our members who are physical education teachers and health education teachers located throughout New York state and right here in the Mohawk Valley. These teachers teach from kindergarten all the way through high school. We also have members who are training new health educators and new physical education teachers as they come into the system. So, we basically provide professional development through conferences, workshops, newsletters (at one time) but now we use an online platform for that.

Q: How many members do you have in New York?

A: Presently, we have 2,000 members in New York.

Q: How did the agency come to be and when was it initially established?

A: Well, it all happened 98 years ago in 1924. A group of professionals at that time recognized the importance of physical and health education for children. We say when it comes to children, the most important thing is their health. When you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the ground and you’re feeling good, you’re starting off your day in a positive way.

Q: What challenges does the organization face?

A: The struggle that we face as an agency is that both of these disciplines, health and physical education, are not always valued. So, does that mean they are not valued in society at large as well? In some ways, yes. However, things have changed through the years. I do think people, parents and families are more aware on the importance of being physically active, to eat healthier, to be more concerned overall about their health and wellness, as well as their children’s, and that is a good thing as it helps us as educators. On the other hand, we have a long history of fighting the uphill battle in terms of value of what we do.

Q: How has the physical education curriculum changed over the years and what added health benefits are now available for students?

A: It used to be that the physical education curriculum was more sports-focused, where now, and at least the past 10 years, we have shifted more toward a lifetime activity basis in physical education.

Q: Can you give me examples of lifetime activities?

A: Absolutely—things that do not require a team effort, such as golf, tennis and kayaking for instance. So, it’s just a different type of PE and part of our responsibility is to make sure our members have that professional development so they are comfortable in recreating their curriculum. We also have learning standards in both health and PE which are approved by the New York State Board of Regents.

Q: What do you see in the future or what would you like to see in the future regarding health and physical education in the educational system?

A: Change takes time. So, as more older teachers retire and new younger teachers enter into the workforce, more emphasis will be placed on student health. Also, students have so much more to choose from in regards to curriculum as I previously alluded to, so they are having a different experience (hopefully a more positive and healthier one) than, say, their parents did when they were in school.

Q: How many staff do you have, and where do you get your funding from?

A: Here at our Little Falls agency, we have five staff. In regards to our funding, our funding comes from our annual conference as well as annual membership dues.

Q: What is your educational and professional background?

A: Prior to being the executive director for AHPERD, I was the associate in physical education and athletics for the NYS Education Department in Albany. I held that position for eight years. Prior to that position I was a physical education teacher. I have a master’s degree in education.

Q: You mentioned an annual conference. What is that all about; where and when will it take place?

A: Our annual conference will be held at the Turning Stone Convention Center located in Verona, from Nov. 16-19. It is the premier event for professionals in the field of physical activity, physical education, school-based health and wellness. We will be offering our members an extensive menu of events and programs that will cover a wide range of topics regarding the most recent findings on how students engage in physical education and activity programs.

For more information on NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, call 315-823-1015 or toll-free line at 877- 473-7398. Email: ccorsi@nysahperd.org, website: www.nysahperd.org