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NL elementary instructor earns Teacher of the Year award

A physical education instructor in the Northern Lehigh School District has received the Teacher of the Year Award.

Jennifer Butz, an elementary health and physical education teacher, was recognized for the award at Monday’s school board meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Matthew J. Link said that on Sept. 15 he received a letter that Butz was chosen as 2023 SHAPE PA Elementary School Physical Education Teacher of the Year.

“As the winner of this very prestigious award, Dr. Butz, congratulations, thank you so much for your leadership, dedication, professionalism and service to your school and community,” Link said. “We are very fortunate to have you as part of our team here at Northern Lehigh.”

Link noted that Butz was honored and received her award at the Teacher of the Year Award Celebrations at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster on Oct. 26.

“As the recipient of this award, Dr. Butz will now be asked to participate with Shape PA in drafting and publishing journal articles, to join their blog post to share on teaching tips and research for other health and physical education educators throughout the state, to present at the 2024 SHAPE PA Conference, and she will also be invited to be a guest on their webinar and podcast,” he said.

Butz, who was joined at the meeting by her husband and daughter, said that SHAPE PA is the state Phys Ed and Health organization, and has been around for over 100 years.

“What’s nice is the mission is basically to try to get professional development into the schools throughout Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth, so the 501 school districts, as well as any of the Catholic Schools and private schools, the state organization tries to help get professional development for health and phys ed teachers,” Butz said. “PDE also helps along with Shape PA, and we recently rewrote the state standards for health and phys ed, that haven’t been rewritten since 2002, so that’s exciting for that to be happening, so that’s something that’s going to be rolling out soon hopefully within the next year or so.

“They also provide a lot of opportunities for teacher professionals to get involved in opportunities to learn about a profession and to get a mentor themselves.”

“I’ve had many opportunities to learn and grow in SHAPE PA, and this was just one of the awesome opportunities that they gave me just by recognizing me for those opportunities.” Many of the ideas I get that I use in my classes are from resources that are shared with other phys ed teachers and health education teachers in these meetings and presentations that I get to go to at a conference.

“And what’s nice about it, especially now with technology, you’re able to continue doing so throughout the year, so it’s not just a once a year, you actually are able to stay connected, and that’s one of the things I really value.”

Butz said with the partnership with the department of education, more specific professional development available for health and phys ed teachers.

“I realize that it would not have been possible without my amazing students, supportive administration, awesome co-workers that I’ve been working with for so long. I’ve been here 17 years, which is kind of crazy; 2,800-plus students I have taught in that time. The numbers are quite staggering, I don’t feel like I‘ve been here that long, but it’s awesome to be able to make an impact every day on children’s health and wellness, and helping them to find a way to enjoy and appreciate those things.”

Link praised Butz.

“Dr. Butz, thank you so much for everything that you’re doing for our students here, and brining that experience back to our students and your colleagues,” Link said.

Jennifer Butz, physical education teacher, recently received the Teacher of the Year Award. Joined by her husband and daughter, Butz displays the award during Monday's Northern Lehigh School Board meeting. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS