Students in Kelly Hare’s fourth-grade class at Eva Turner Elementary School were recently on a mission to outmaneuver the Grinch’s helpers and steal back fitness equipment, returning it to Whoville.
Four teams of Whos of Whoville stood at one end of Turner’s gymnasium with boxes of fitness equipment at the other end. It was guarded by four of the Grinch’s helpers armed with a pool noodles and prepared to defend the stash. While “How the Grinch Stole Fitmas” looks like a game, Valeri Cheseldine, Turner’s physical education teacher, watches to see that students are demonstrating and improving their cardiovascular and muscular endurance, flexibility and strength. Each skill is a goal in the curriculum. The activity is part of January’s adventure games unit which focuses on team-building activities that use various gym equipment.
Cheseldine has been teaching PE since she graduated from Glenville State University. First at Theodore G. Davis Middle School, then at Caroline Middle School in Milford, Va. In 2020, Turner Principal Gary Lesko offered Cheseldine an opportunity she was hoping for. “My dream job is teaching elementary school,” she said as students’ cheers and squeals ricocheted off the walls and the overly dramatic displays of the agony of defeat played out beside her. “This is my dream job.” At Turner, Cheseldine interacts with children who are in prekindergarten through fifth grade. “Elementary physical education teachers are at the foundation of a child’s development,” she said. “Health and physical education are integral parts of a child’s learning process as they encompass the whole child.”
Cheseldine doesn’t limit teaching to Turner students, she also leads professional learning for CCPS teachers and connects them with opportunities outside of the school system. “Mrs. Cheseldine is a team player who is always willing to contribute to the district’s overall physical education program,” Matthew Golonka, CCPS content specialist for health and physical education, said.
Beyond the gym, Cheseldine stays busy as a member of the Society of Health and Physical Educators of Maryland (SHAPE) Maryland, an organization that promotes physical fitness for students in prekindergarten through 12th grade. Shortly after attending her first SHAPE Maryland meeting, Cheseldine was selected to fill in as the convention manager. She took on the responsibility again this year, and this month was elected to the organization’s board of directors. Despite her short tenure with SHAPE Maryland, she received a Presidential Citation at its 2022 conference held in November.
The citation is given to a person who goes out of their way in support of the president and the organization. Karen Kart, SHAPE’s past president, presented the citation to Cheseldine. She was cited for stepping up and filling the convention manager’s role in the middle of the year and assisting Kart along the way. It’s no surprise Cheseldine was honored by SHAPE, Golonka said. “She epitomizes the organization’s mission of advancing professional practice related to health, physical education, physical activity, dance, and sport,” he said.
Cheseldine is also active in SHAPE America where she is on the East District Leadership Council serving members in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Vermont, and the Virgin Islands. She would like to stay with SHAPE and hopes to gain more leadership roles within the organization.
During her downtime, Cheseldine runs — she participated in cross country and track when she was in high school — and she pens blog posts for the Gopher Contributing Network, a site for topics related to PE. She’s also contributed a post to slowchathealth.com, a blog for health education teachers.
“Ms. Cheseldine is without a doubt the most ambitious educator that I have ever worked with. She serves in a tremendous capacity at Eva Turner,” Lesko said. “Her contributions to Turner and her students are immeasurable and she consistently earns my respect as her supervisor and as her colleague.”
Cheseldine is currently working on earning her master’s degree and earning National Board Certification. She is the secretary of Turner’s PTO and a member of the Professional Learning Team and Wellness Committee. “I involve myself as much as possible in my school and community to build connections with our students, parents, staff, and community,” she said.