SPRINGFIELD TWP.  Surprise parties are always fun for those being surprised and for those doing the surprising. One of Springfield's biggest surprise parties ever held was when 535 students of Schrop Intermediate School in surprised physical education teacher Betty Kern.

Kern recently received the Elementary Physical Educator of the Year Award for Ohio Association of Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance (OAHPERD).

Students and staff alike were excited about Kern receiving the award, they wanted to surprise her. Spring Hill Principal Dave Jurmanovich was in on the secret as he called Kern and asked her to come over to his school to discuss some programs they could put in place.  While she was at the "fake" meeting, the Schrop gymnasium was decorated and students and staff filed in and took their seats waiting for Kern to arrive back at the school.

Kern was quite surprised to walk into the gym and find the entire student body and staff waiting for her and yelling "surprise." There was no cake or punch, just gifts of love and admiration through letters the students wrote to her. Out of the 535 letters, 27 students read theirs to Kern, their fellow students and staff.

"Have you ever had a teacher who is super creative and inspiring? Well, I do." Lily McFarland wrote. She went on to write that she loves how creative Kern is "no matter what, when we’re with you, or around you, we are never bored."

Many of the students thanked Kern in their letters and were appreciative of how she inspires them. Students also wrote about how Kern makes sure they eat healthy diets each "so our bodies don’t shut down," said many students.

Emily Coleman wrote that she enjoys having Kern as a teacher because she "goes the extra mile," which is very true as Kern has started many clubs at the school such as Running Club, Walking Club, Morning Walking Club and Workout Warriors. Coleman also wrote that Kern reminds her to never give up and never say she can’t. That was something written over and over by students in the letters. Kern tells students that maybe they cannot do something today, but they will someday.

Schrop Principal Lisa Vardon said Kern has 25 years of experience in Springfield Local Schools and a plethora of experiences.

"I feel that Betty Kern is an exceptional teacher," Vardon said.

Kern was also selected in 2016-17 as Springfield Local School District’s Teacher of the Year for her innovative teaching and for providing students with unique experiences while meeting the needs of all students.

"Her remarkable ability to differentiate instruction, while keeping all kids engaged is due to her high energy level, her knowledge of the standards and her knowledge of her students’ individualized education programs.  She also serves as a positive example of health and fitness," said Vardon.

The school has a wealth of physical education activities that Kern has created. Along with the clubs, Kern has more than 200 students training after school to complete in a 1.5 mile race at the end of the school year. She emphasizes student leadership and character education when meeting with students participating in the variety of clubs. In addition to running and walking clubs, more than 35 students compete on the cross-country team which meets on Sundays. There is also a Yoga Club and a Jump Rope Club. More than 125 students meet before school each day to walk 30 minutes. Workout Warriors is a daily high intensity morning workout for kids with special needs to help them start their day in a positive way. The warrior program was so popular that the demand from regular education students to join was overwhelming. Kern worked out a schedule so all could participate.

Kern participates in professional development, but also, conducts multiple presentations in many different venues for her professions. She has presented at the National Shape Convention for eight years and at the Ohio PE and Health Convention for 10 years. She has provided professional development for the Springfield School District as well as other districts in the Akron/Cleveland area. 

Grants have been awarded to fund programs due to Kern’s seeking the funds. Last year, a Box Tops for Education Commercial featured Kern and her quest to bring a rock wall to Schrop Intermediate School. 

In her nomination of Kern for the award, Vardon wrote, "I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. Betty is so much more than a teacher to our students, she is a supporter, a challenger, a helper, an example, an encourager, a role model, a hero, a believer, a life changer, and an inspiration."