#98 – Breaking Down Stereotypes in the PE Classroom

Unpacking Education June 29, 2022 44 min

Amanda Berg, a physical education teacher and strength and conditioning coach, says, “Find a way to be yourself. It’s okay to not be your stereotype.” She goes on to point out that “if you try to be like somebody else, you’re always going to be one step behind. So you have to find a way to be yourself, and you’ll be ahead of the game.”

Amanda has broken down multiple stereotypes in her career, from her military background, to her leadership in the strength and conditioning field, to the integration of technology in her physical education classroom. In this episode, we talk about those experiences, what we can learn from them, and how we can encourage others to pursue their dreams.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

We must reject not only the stereotypes that others have of us but also those we have of ourselves and others.

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress


The following resources are available through AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:

Beyond Stereotypes

No matter the class or group of students in front of her, Amanda wants them to know her number one theme: “You belong here.” She believes that everyone should get a wonderful physical education experience. She also wants students to believe that they can pursue their dreams and be anything they want to be. She does not want her students defined by stereotypes or the way things have always been done.

During our conversation, we explore the idea of growing beyond stereotypes in the context of the physical education classroom and in the role of a strength and conditioning coach. We discuss growing the voice of women in this field as well as the integration of technology in a traditionally offline curricular area. Here are some highlights from this episode:

  • Amanda’s Journey: Amanda recounts her journey from an environmental science major, through two tours in the military, to a job as a PE teacher and strength and conditioning coach.
  • Find Your Champion: When pursuing a field outside of a perceived stereotype, it’s important to find your champion—someone who will believe in you and stand up for you as you break down barriers. Amanda explains that it’s okay to tell someone, “I need you to champion for me.” She discusses how this happened for her with blended learning, when her media specialist said to her, “I believe we can do this with blended learning, and we can make it successful.”
  • Female Voices in Strength and Conditioning: When Amanda first started attending conferences, she found few, if any, female speakers. During a 2020 online conference, she counted the female representatives and found the total to be at about 5%. In response, she reached out to some podcast hosts and argued that they needed more women on their show. Two years later, they feature female guests on a regular rotation. She has also seen gradual growth in conference representation, although it’s still a long way from the goal of 50% representation.
  • Impact of Military Experience: Amanda explains that she would not be the educator, organizer, or coach that she is without her military experience. It taught her organization and the ability to manage multiple tasks at once. During her tour in Iraq and Kuwait, she was both a truck driver and her company’s fitness assessment coordinator.
  • An Early Technology Adopter: Amanda has long been a leader in integrating technology into her classroom. More than 10 years ago, she was bringing her strength students to the computer lab once a week to learn the “why” behind their workouts. She also transformed her college PE class into a hybrid blended course—a first in her school district. When her school first adopted a learning management system, she used it extensively to conveniently store content and make learning more accessible, efficient, and effective.
  • The Power of Video: During the pandemic, she found that video and tools like Flip (Tips) were invaluable. In fact, she says, “I think Flipgrid was made for physical education.” Even now that distance learning is no longer her delivery system, she still has her students put their work on Flipgrid (now renamed Flip), and they watch it as a class. Video, in general, is a valuable tool in the PE classroom, especially for self-critique.
  • New Technology Opportunities: More recently, Amanda has been leveraging heart rate monitors, speed training sensors, and timing systems in her classroom. These tools provide invaluable data for both her and her students. She plans to keep growing and is excited to next explore GPS tools.
  • Using Her Voice: Amanda believes that the voices of women should be amplified in the field of PE and strength training, and she does her part. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, has participated as a blended learning panelist in a neighboring district, and even does some podcast hosting for the Big Time Strength podcast. In this episode of Tech Talk For Teachers, she uses her podcast hosting skills and turns the tables on our team, asking us how we are making it big time.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your teaching team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What was your personal journey to becoming the educator that you are today?
  • Did you have a champion on your journey? Explain.
  • Where do you see demographic groups that are underrepresented in your school or district?
  • Where would you like to see more diversity?
  • Where have you seen technology being used where it may not have been expected?
  • How can you use your voice to support those who might be underrepresented in your school community?