Creating Lifelong Fitness Habits in High School PE

“We see it as our job to help build lifelong fitness skills. Because this can look so different depending on the student, we are happy to have found a program in PLT4M that provides structure and options for our kids.” 

-Kim Matczak

Physical Education Teacher

Physical Education is about empowering students with lifelong fitness skills and expanding students’ interest and confidence in a variety of activities.

That is easier said than done. It takes an organized and concerted effort to develop and flesh out a robust curriculum. Schools look to build a foundation and structure for students while also giving them choices to explore their interests. 

Jeff Matczak, a longtime teacher and coach at Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin, knows the power that his department has to make a difference, 

“We want every student at our school to walk out with the core concepts of fitness and exercise that they can continue past high school. And with so many different types of students, we have worked incredibly hard to create a variety of tracks that each student can succeed in.” 

With over 1,200 students at Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin, Jeff is part of a team of teachers and coaches who have always collaborated to deliver on the mission of lifelong fitness. PE Teachers Jeff Matczak, Kim Matczak, Katie O’Keefe, and Mike Schalow have developed various options and tracks for their students.

Building A Fitness Foundation for Students

No matter what track students will end up on in their later years at Kaukauna, each 9th grader must take an introductory PE course. 

Kim, who leads the “Active Lifestyle” track, looks at the 9th-grade course as an opportunity to get everyone on the same playing field, 

“Before we can get to lifestyle fitness, strength training, and different sports, we want to be sure that everyone has a strong foundation both physically and mentally.” 

To do so, all three teachers share the load of 9th-grade courses that start to build a fitness foundation and a primary understanding of core concepts. From 9th grade on, Jeff describes these core concepts as a fundamental piece to Kaukauna PE, 

“We hammer home core academic concepts and terminology so that students can start making the academic connections to the activity-based learning we do.” 

From the foundation developed in 9th grade, Kaukauna students can start to set out on their different tracks. 

A Modern PE Curriculum

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Strength & Conditioning For Students and Athletes

One of the most popular tracks at Kaukauna is the strength and conditioning options. Jeff notes the school’s storied athletic success as one of the reasons this track in PE is so popular, 

“We have brought home several state championships over the last few years. And of course, athletes and coaches are both aware of the connection strength and conditioning has on the overall success of a program.” 

With that connection, many student-athletes will start with the “Intro To Weightlifting” courses that can then make them eligible to move into the more advanced “Training for Competition” classes available. 

[Check out Our Guide To Teaching the Power Lifts]


Not only does Kaukauna have an impressive history of championships, but they also have a state-of-the-art weight room with over 20 weightlifting stations that all have their own iPads. Loaded onto the iPads is the PLT4M app that each student can log in and access their workouts, 

“The instructional videos are spot-on for introductory student-athletes as they can learn to move safely and with great technique. And our advanced athletes can access workouts that have personalized weights tailored to their progress. It just adds in another layer of personal choice for students that we love.”

Jeff, also a wrestling coach, looks at PLT4M as an opportunity to deliver high-quality instruction and engage his student-athletes with cutting-edge programming.

“Past what I can do during classes, I can now connect it with what goes on after school via our strength coach and other sport coaches. It is bringing us all together in a great way.” 

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Lifetime Fitness and Alternative Tracks

While Kaukauna is home to many student-athletes, they also have many students that are not necessarily interested in living in the weight room all semester. To foster the student choice that Kaukauna prides itself on, Mike and Kim layer in other options and class offerings. 

Mike, also a basketball coach at the school, works to provide various individual and team sports offerings. Students are exposed to activities and sports like tennis, golf, archery, and other team sports units. 

But not everyone is interested in sports or training for them. This group of students will find themselves on the lifestyle fitness track. For this group, Kim sees it as an excellent opportunity to expose them to all sorts of units so that they can get a taste for what is out there, 

“We do yoga, pilates, stress management, HITT workouts, TRX workouts, and all sorts of other units in our lifestyle fitness track. It is a chance to spark students’ interest, without them getting bored of doing the same thing over and over again.” 

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And while PLT4M had once been primarily for the weight room, she can now tap into the variety of resources for her general population of students, 

“A big focus in our active lifestyles track is how to scale up and down. Whether it is the fitness, yoga, or dance units, PLT4M does an excellent job with instructional content that shows students different exercise options. It opens the door to so many more students who otherwise would think they couldn’t do something.” 

Because PLT4M emphasizes scaling and modifying movements, Kim can layer in these PE units to help every student find a fitness option. 


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An Inclusive PE Program

At Kaukauna, the goal has always been to help students find the right fit for their lifetime fitness. No matter their interests during high school, Kaukauna PE is confident they are setting students up with the fundamentals to carry on a lifetime of wellness. Kim added,

“We see it as our job to help build healthy habits. And because this can look so different depending on the person, we are happy to have found a program and structure that works for us.” 

With more students at the school and a bustling program, Kaukauna PE was fortunate enough to add Katie O’Keefe as another teacher to help take on some of the 9th grade classes this past year. Katie now splits her time between the middle and high school, but has been an integral part of the PE team and its continued mission of instilling lifelong fitness.

As the program continues to develop, Jeff sees the schools PE and Athletic success as a sign for more good things to come, 

“The kids love it and can see the progress themselves. Whether they track it via the app or just take a look in the mirror. The same excitement we have as teachers, the kids can feel as they take part in this program. All in all, it’s an exciting time for Kaukauna.” 

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