Constantly moving. Constantly teaching. Constantly smiling. When you step inside the Gilbert Intermediate main gymnasium for a morning PE class, that’s what you will see when you observe teacher Stephanie Klaffke. With her customary headset microphone in place so that all of her students can hear her words of wisdom, Klaffke radiates enthusiasm for her pupils, who are attentive when asked and, yes, incredibly active when asked.
For 17 years, Klaffke has been at the forefront of physical education and wellness for our younger students and she’s created a program that is both educational and entertaining. Intermediate Principal Amy Griffin’s office sits just 26 paces from the gymnasium and she’s able to see daily the impact that Klaffke has on the students.
“She works so hard to make PE so impactful and lifelong for kids,” Griffin said. “The health and wellness component of PE is amazing, and she is committed to providing our students with her best every day that she comes to school.”
Klaffke’s commitment to her students and the enthusiasm she brings to her profession were rewarded this past weekend when it was announced she has been named the 2023-24 SHAPE Iowa Elementary PE Teacher of the Year. The process for naming the 2023-24 SHAPE Iowa winners actually began last fall, and Klaffke was informed she had been nominated by a peer for the award in June. She received the good news on Saturday.
“It’s a huge honor because the elementary class has a lot of great teachers in this state,” Klaffke said. “This is a career goal. I set it about five years ago, just realizing it was something I wanted to work toward.”
Griffin beamed when she heard the news that one of her building’s teachers had been bestowed with such an important honor.
“I’m so incredibly happy for her,” Griffin said. “She deserves this because she works hard. Her passion shines for everybody and she’s always there for kids. She wants them to be successful.”
SHAPE Iowa — the Society of Health and Physical Educators — was first formed in 1921, and its mission is to provide leadership and support for the enhancement of movement, leisure and health related programs central to healthy, active lifestyles and lifelong learning.
Klaffke has served on the SHAPE Iowa board and leadership council for the past two years, and she’s represented both the organization and Gilbert Schools as a speaker in other states. She says the organization has been instrumental in her growth as an educator over her distinguished career.
“It’s foundational,” she said. “Prior to this year, I was the only elementary (PE) teacher in our district for 17 years, and elementary is just a little different than middle school and high school. I’ve been able to connect with some great professionals, not only in Iowa, but in other states.
“When the award was announced, I had people from all over commenting on it and that’s just really cool. The award goes to all of the people that helped me learn along the way and the kids I’ve had and the district for being awesome and supportive.”
Educators are allowed to win the SHAPE Iowa award only once. Klaffke will now be in the running for the district Teacher of the Year award (comprised of nine Midwestern states), with the potential to move on and have a chance at claiming the national award as well.
Klaffke says the support she’s received from the Gilbert school district — students, fellow staff members, administrators, and families — has enabled her to have an impact on kids, something she’s grateful for.
“I really feel like we have this momentum here,” she said. “It’s not only the award, but the recognition for our school is awesome. People really are interested in what we’re doing here.”
Joining Klaffke as 2023-24 SHAPE Iowa Teacher of the Year winners were Chris Christensen (middle school ) of Waukee, Jodi Larson (high school) of Ankeny, Ginger Halverson (adapted PE) of Linn-Mar, Anne Sloan (health education) of North Polk, and Karla Lowe (administrator) of Des Moines Christian.