Jacksonville’s Fitness Classes Support Personal Improvement

If someone were to walk into one of the fitness classes at Jacksonville High School in Illinois, they might be overwhelmed by all the moving parts. However, as students move throughout the weight room and complete their workouts, the class is anything but chaotic. Instead, a better description for Jacksonville’s popular physical education class would be poetry in motion. The classes offer a unique opportunity for students to participate in weight room workouts during physical education.

Better yet, the fitness classes are comprised of a diverse range of students that are all seeing results and personal improvement. The fitness classes at Jacksonville are offered throughout the school day and are led by PE teachers Tim Thrasher, Raelene Lawless, and Brandon Radford. We sat down with Tim Thrasher, a long-time PE teacher, to hear more about how students thrive in fitness classes at Jacksonville High School.

Personal Improvement Requires a Personalized Approach 


Within the fitness classes at Jacksonville High School are students of all grade levels and abilities. Each day students are partnered up at stations and make their way through a workout. And while students do the same movements and exercises, they have a personalized workout tailored to their fitness levels and abilities. Tim recognizes the power of an individualized approach, 


“We have high expectations for our students. We want to see them improve and progress just like they are expected to in any other class or subject in the building. But because every student has a unique fitness background, we have to meet them where they are at and then help them grow from there.” 


After getting a grant for the physical education classes, Jacksonville was able to add tablets throughout the weight room. As a result, students could access personalized workouts via the PLT4M app. Tim says that this addition helped to further the mission of personal improvement, 


“Everyone starts somewhere different in fitness. But because we can deliver individualized workouts with technology in physical education, there is a clear path for students to progress throughout a semester, school year, or entire high school career.” 


A tablet mounted in the Jacksonville High School weight room.
A tablet mounted in the Jacksonville High School weight room.

Numbers Highlight Progress in Fitness Classes 


To help students on the path of personal improvement, the Jacksonville fitness classes emphasize the numbers and data associated with workouts. For Tim, this is a crucial component of supporting students’ progress, 


“When students can see fitness metrics and numbers change, they know in real time the personal improvement they are making. In addition, it helps them come to class with a purpose and focus on working hard. Every day is an opportunity to get better.” 


Much of the data students see exists right on the PLT4M app. But Jacksonville PE teachers also create progress reports to showcase student growth. Outside of just creating individual and class reports to showcase student improvement, Tim also says that the data helps put fitness classes into context for other people at the school as well,


“We use the reports to show what is happening in fitness classes for sports coaches and administrators. Numbers are powerful, and we can showcase the actual data of what is happening in a physical education class. This goes a long way in highlighting the importance of physical education and fitness-focused curriculum.” 


A PLT4M activity report.
A sample activity report that can be found in a PLT4M school account.

Student Stories From Fitness Classes 


Beyond just numbers around fitness metrics, students at Jacksonville see the real-world impact of fitness classes. Tim shared a few of these stories to highlight what the fitness classes mean to students, 


“A student in the marching band said they were exhausted during practices and performances. But after taking the fitness class, they reported feeling better and healthier, leading them to focus more on the music!” 


Another story Tim shared was about an athlete who hadn’t changed anything from a practice perspective but had started lifting weights in fitness class, 


“The student-athlete came to me and said they had a huge time drop in swimming. They had gotten stronger and more powerful from the work we did in fitness classes, which was paying off in the pool.” 


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Keeping Fitness Classes Fresh and Exciting 


While Jacksonville fitness classes have been successful, the PE teachers know they always have to keep a finger on the pulse. Keeping things fresh and exciting is top of mind for the PE teachers at Jacksonville. Tim explains the need for variation with high school students, 


“If students get bored or unmotivated, they aren’t going to push themselves as hard. And this means they won’t see the same amount of progress and improvement.” 


With PLT4M, Tim and his fellow PE teachers can adjust and modify workouts on the fly. By doing so, they can all stay on the same page as a department and strike a delicate balance between consistency and creativity. Tim explains that while the workouts will change, they are still achieving the primary goal of progress, 


“Whether we adjust the sets and reps or change the exercise variation, it is all in the effort of helping students see personal improvement. Little changes and adjustments go a long way.” 

A PLT4M video displayed in the Jacksonville High School weight room.
A PLT4M video displayed in the Jacksonville High School weight room.

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Key Takeaways on Jacksonville Fitness Classes 


When Jacksonville High School students walk into fitness classes, they know the expectations are high. The PE teachers want students to understand that progress and improvement only come from hard work and effort. But because they set clear expectations, provide personalized workouts, and are willing to adjust and change, the class has been a smashing success. 


And the success continues beyond fitness classes during the school day. In addition to the work during fitness classes, Tim has helped his coaches and colleagues support students in the weight room before and after school and even over the summer. Tim explains the effects of taking a unified approach, 


“With PLT4M everyone is on the same page. It helps anyone involved with PE or Athletics at the school tap into training programs and technology that will support students regardless of their goals.” 


In addition to everyone at the high school benefiting from the fitness classes, the middle school is starting to lay the foundation with PLT4M for younger students. At the middle school level, teachers are using some of the other content and curriculum that PLT4M has to offer. The goal is simple, continue helping students at all age levels find a path to personal improvement in fitness and health. Jacksonville is indeed reaching that goal! 

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