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Retiring PE Teacher Looks Forward to Her Next Chapter

After 41 years of teaching physical education at Norman’s Jackson Elementary, Mary Coleman is being honored for her continued inspiration by a new student award that carries her name.

The Mary Coleman Physical Fitness Award was given for the first time at Jackson Elementary School’s fifth grade promotion in May. The 2019 winners were chosen by Coleman’s fellow teachers and their names were added to a large plaque on display in the school.

Each year, the award will be given to two fifth-grade students, one boy and one girl, who exhibit a healthy lifestyle. It’s not about being the healthiest or fittest kid, it’s about trying to stay healthy and working hard to make healthy life choices, Coleman said.

Coleman began her career at Jackson Elementary in 1978, at the age of 22, while going through graduate school for health and exercise science at the University of Oklahoma.

“I started off in math and engineering,” Coleman said. “I loved math, but when I got into engineering, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I just loved fitness and physical activity.”

Coleman spent her first eight years teaching P.E. in a portable building because the school did not have a gymnasium.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I enjoyed it,” Coleman said.

Over the last four decades, Coleman has learned a thing or two about career longevity in education. She gave this universal advice:

“Try new things, try new ideas. Don’t get stuck in a rut,” Coleman said. “Do something new. Get involved and start clubs. It keeps you fresh and aware of what’s going on.”

Living by her own advice, she started a running club and said that in the last two years the club had participated in the Oklahoma City Kids Marathon.

While she loved teaching, Coleman said she is excited for her next chapter — retirement.

“I love to travel and explore,” Coleman said. “I want to go to Italy, that’s definitely on the bucket list. But I also have a two-year-old granddaughter, so I plan to spend a lot of time with her and family, too.” – BSM

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