Mr. Daniel Pagan is our site coordinator at P.S. 91 in the Bronx, where he works as a physical education teacher. We’re giving him a big ol’ “shout out” because of all the support and enthusiasm he brings to our proverbial table. We couldn’t fulfill our mission without help from people like him. Read on to find out about his professional background, what inspires him and how he is teaming up with PowerPlay!
What made you want to become a gym teacher?
I grew up on the southern coast of Puerto Rico in a town bordering the Caribbean Sea called Lajas. Ever since I was little kid I loved playing sports and being outdoors. From an early age I knew I didn’t want an office job and dreamed of being outdoors and playing sports for a living as an adult. One day at school we were told that we would have a new class called “Physical Education” taught by a new teacher named Mr. Lebron. Mr Lebron quickly became my hero. He would take us outside of the classroom to a baseball field to play games and sports. That was when I knew I wanted to be a P.E. teacher just like him. I pursued my dream and that dream would eventually become a reality when, after graduating from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, I was hired to work as a P.E. teacher alongside my childhood hero, Mr Lebron! Sadly, Mr. Lebron passed away during my first year of teaching but working with him, albeit briefly, made me incredibly proud. Not only to have had the opportunity to work with my childhood hero but also to have the opportunity to make my hero proud. That year, after winning various district and regional competitions in basketball and volleyball, I was awarded the 2002 award for “Lajas’ Physical Education Teacher of the Year” by the Puerto Rico Department of Education. In 2004, after 2 years working as a teacher in Puerto Rico, I decided I wanted to learn from other teachers and student communities so I relocated to New York City where I worked as a Middle School teacher for 4 years and as an Elementary School teacher at P.S. 91 for the past 6 years.
Why are elementary school girls in need of programs like PowerPlay?
Girls are in need of programs like Power Play because in urban areas such as NYC playing opportunities for girls are sadly very limited. While parks such as Riverside Park in Harlem have wonderful programming opportunities for girls, most neighborhood parks don’t have any programs and male teens and men playing basketball often dominate facilities. Power Play is a wonderful program because it brings the sports and recreation programming to the school – making it easy for girls to access it. The environment the coaches create is welcoming, risk-free,and empowering for young girls. In this day and age it’s important that they get to interact with the Power Play coaches who serve as truly great female role models. Not only do they teach girls the importance of physical activity and sports but they also teach them about health and nutrition, strategies to deal with bullying, saying no to drugs and peer pressure, and other important lessons for girls.
What has been your motivation in teaming up with PowerPlay?
My motivation to team up with Power Play stems from my years as a middle school teacher where I encountered a number of female students who had very negative attitudes regarding the Physical Education class. I often found it to be very challenging to change their attitudes and get them engaged – even when using motivational tools, visual aides, reading materials, etc. By engaging in conversation with them I discovered that most of them felt that way because of years of limited-to-no participation in physical activities, negative experiences in P.E. class, and the lack of a role model figure to inspire them early in their lives to move and play. Since being at P.S. 91 my co-teacher, Mr. Levine, and I have always aimed to create the most positive environment possible for students and I feel proud whenever I see a former female student and they tell me they are on their Middle School’s basketball team, Sports Club, Dance group, etc. It tells me that what we do at the elementary school really helps them establish and maintain positive feelings towards sports, physical activity and personal fitness. I find that Power Play helps Physical Education teachers by putting female students in position to develop positive feeling towards sports and exercise early in their lives. Not only are female students here at P.S. 91 having a ball with Power Play, they are also acquiring knowledge that will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle long after graduating from P.S. 91.