Shawsheen Teacher Kevin Tiller: Bringing Phys Ed Class Into the 21st Century

Ever feel like a little exercise helps you think better? For students at Shawsheen Elementary School, that’s what happens every time they take one of Kevin Tiller’s physical education classes.


This is the first in a series of articles about the Andover Public Schools that will appear on a regular basis.  In this space we hope to give readers a better  understanding of our school district--the operations, programming, and people that make up a system serving more than 6,200 students in grades pre-k to twelve.  Articles will cover a wide range of topics and will therefore be written by a variety of people, including administrators, teachers, staff, and School Committee members.  We look forward to sharing this information with the community.

Ever feel like a little exercise helps you think better?  For students at Shawsheen Elementary School, that’s exactly what happens every time they take one of Kevin Tiller’s physical education classes.  The kids are clearly having too much fun to notice, but the fundamentals of math, reading, music, science, and health education are embedded in nearly every game they play.  As Mr. Tiller says, “I’m not just a phys ed teacher; I’m a teacher.  Every subject can be incorporated into my class.”

This is apparent the moment you step inside the Shawsheen gym.  In addition to the colorful balls, hoops, and other kid-friendly exercise equipment, you will see numbers and letters posted on the walls and word labels identifying the parts of the room.  You will also see a projector screen, an iPad mounted on a tripod, and a sound system resurrected from Mr. Tiller’s college days.  With these tools, Tiller integrates all kinds of concepts into his teaching in ways that immediately engage his students.  In a game of tag, for instance, students who are caught must race to the iPad in the center of the gym and solve a math problem using a flashcard app.  That same iPad is filled with audio lessons Tiller has made using Garageband or Mixcraft 5 software, as well as hundreds of videos that he projects on the wall to get kids dancing, moving, and trying new skills; some are downloaded from YouTube, others he films and edits himself with apps like iMovie and Puppet Pals.  

This year, Mr. Tiller will be using his iPad to videotape students as part of an assessment program he is piloting called PE Metrics, a standards-based evaluation tool designed by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education to measure the development of cognitive and motor skills in children.  To keep parents in the loop, he’s created a website called “Shawsheen School Phys Ed” which explains this program and the assessments he uses; it also has examples of the video and audio tools he uses in his classes.

Outside the school day, Mr. Tiller is just as busy.  He runs a wildly popular after-school program called GOTCHA (Get Off the Couch, stay Healthy and Active); he is a frequent presenter at professional conferences; and he recently completed a book on physical education games and skill builders that is soon to be published by Great Activities Publishing Company.  

But working directly with students is what Mr. Tiller likes best.  “There are so many ways to get kids moving,” he says.  “I’m just a big kid myself, so I love finding new ways for them to learn and have fun.”

This article was written by Annie Gilbert, Andover School Committee member and member of the communications subcommittee (agilbert@aps1.net), in collaboration with Shawsheen Teacher Kevin Tiller (ktiller@aps1.net)

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