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Highlands physical education teacher receives national grant

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.

Julie Mickschl, physical education teacher at Highlands Elementary, will receive one of 10 national Jump Rope For Heart/Hoops For Heart (JRFH/HFH) grants from the Society of Health and Physical Educators America (SHAPE). Mickschl will be recognized March 22 during SHAPE America’s Professional Excellence Ceremony at its National Convention & Expo in Nashville. Mickschl just wrapped up her week long Jump Rope for Heart Event during American Heart Month.

Recipients are recognized for their passion and commitment for physical education and the JRFH program. The jointly sponsored SHAPE America and American Heart Association program promotes physical education and provides children with knowledge of heart disease and stroke. The funds raised go toward cardiovascular disease, stroke research and health education.

Mickschl has incorporated JRFH as a centerpiece of her physical education, educating students on how to keep their hearts strong and teaching them the fundamental skills to lead a healthy lifestyle through adulthood.

“Our Jump Rope for Heart event is one of my favorite times of the year. The energy in and around the building is second to none. Almost every student can relate to this cause – it’s personal!” said Michschl. “It’s easy for kids to raise money, and to be excited about it when they can make the connection between knowing someone who has been affected by heart disease and/or stroke and knowing that they have the power to help do something about it.”

JRFH has been a staple of the Highlands school community for the past eight years. In that time, Mickschl and her students have raised $71,544 -- over $9,500 in life-saving funds just this year.

“Physical education is a crucial element in the culture of wellness at any school,” said Katie Mahoney, Highlands’ principal. “Julie has been a positive mentor and role model for Highlands Elementary School around physical health. She has added new elements to her teaching every year such as activity monitors, school-wide marathon, floor hockey, run club, sport stacking and the much loved Dance, Dance, Revolution. Julie makes it her goal to meet all students' sparks around staying active and having a fit lifestyle.”

Mahoney stated that Mickschl’s commitment to Jump Rope For Heart is the same every year but the challenges and goals she sets for the kids are always new. “This year we had a day long jump-a-thon that was a blast for all kids,” Mahoney said. “Highlands is extremely fortunate and immensely proud to have Julie Mickschl leading our physical education program.”

Mickschl’s educational background includes a master’s in athletics and activities administration from the University of St. Thomas; a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in adventure education; and a bachelor’s in physical education with a concentration in adapted physical education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Mickschl was named MNSHAPE Elementary PE Teacher of the Year in 2016 and has taught at Highlands Elementary since 2005.

As part of the grant package, Mickschl will receive a US Games gift certificate to enhance her physical education program at Highlands, a free one-year membership to SHAPE America as well as expenses paid for travel and registration to the national convention. SHAPE America is the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals.