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From left, Kurt Suhr with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and student winner

Fitness Counts

CSUF Doctoral Candidate and Newport Beach Educator Receives Governor’s 2007 ‘Principal of the Year’ Award

October 29, 2007


Kurt Suhr, a Cal State Fullerton doctoral candidate and elementary school principal, knows first hand that fitness counts when it comes to student academic success.

Because of his efforts launching the Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health (CATCH) Physical Education program at Newport Heights Elementary School, Suhr has been honored with the 2007 Principal of the Year Award from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor recognizes outstanding educators each year through his Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

As part of the recognition, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports will present a $10,000 check Nov. 29 to Newport Heights in support of the CATCH program.

The Newport Heights principal began CATCH after learning about the comprehensive K-6th grade physical education program used in Texas schools. Today, the program is offered in more than 1,500 K-8 classrooms across California.

“It’s a amazing to see a program start at our school and to know it’s affecting so many students outside our school,” said Suhr, who hopes to complete his Ed.D. in educational administration in May 2008. He is studying how using laptop computers can help fourth-graders read as his dissertation.

Suhr is quick to credit parents and others at the school, as well as the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Orange County Department of Education, for the program's success. “By no means is it because of my efforts,” said Suhr, who earned a master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University. “It’s taken a lot of hard work from a lot of people who wanted to implement this program. It’s truly been a collective effort and this award is in recognition of the great team effort.”

Four years ago, the school piloted the new approach to physical education, in part, to meet state requirements for elementary schools. Suhr, parents and others also wanted a program that would get students’ heart rates pumping and encourage a healthier lifestyle.

The program focuses on physical education lesson plans that have students exercise in small groups, include nutrition education at school and home, and involve collaboration with school nutritionists to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods. Suhr also started a breakfast club to reward students who walk to school and a new active playground plan that increases physical activity during recess and lunch.

Suhr added that most importantly, the program helps students to build a “sound body and sound mind.”

“The strongest benefits that we’re seeing is that kids are getting the types of exercise they need to burn off their energy, and the result is that they are more focused in the classroom,” Suhr said. “We’ve seen the CATCH program do wonders at our school and it’s nice to see it grow throughout California and address the physical education needs faced by schools.”


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