A longtime Lawrence teacher and coach was recently honored by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for her cardiovascular fitness program aimed at helping students and teachers get physically fit.
“I really just was trying to get people in the habit of exercising and make it a lifelong thing for them,” said Free State High School physical education teacher Nancy Hopkins. “Our school motto is ‘make them lifelong learners.’ Well, they need to learn how to stay healthy, so that’s what I'm trying to do.”
Her passion these days is a former storage room at the school, 4700 Overland Drive, filled with tread mills, elliptical machines and stationary bicycles for spinning classes. She has two classes in the room right now and also works after school with teachers and school staff members in a spinning class.
Most of her spare time these days is wrapped up in improving the school’s cardiovascular room to ultimately give students and staff members — across the district — a nice place to workout and stay fit, said Hopkins, who has taught in the district for 38 years and is also Free State’s head volleyball coach.
One of her students recently quit smoking and others have lost weight, she said.
For her work to advocate for physical fitness, the USADA took notice recently and awarded her a silver medal in a national contest. She won $750 for the school and $250 for herself, plus a one-year subscription to Discovery Education Health, which she donated to the school’s library.
Hopkins is the middle of raising funds to add more improvements to Free State’s cardiovascular room after the district invested about $30,000 in the last year in new equipment. She wants to raise another $80,000 to $100,000 to help add new machines and amenities so it will one day be a major workout hub.
She has already started asking her former volleyball parents and players and has received about $12,000 in donations. Hopkins is also hoping to have an auction this summer that will include work from local artists and tons of autographed photos and items from celebrities, like the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Jeff Bridges, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, tennis legend Steffi Graf and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I teach P.E., and you see it. The kids are overweight and out of shape,” she said. “Even if they are in a P.E. class, they are not as active as they need to be to stay healthy. So it’s just my way of trying to come up with a solution to at least help somebody.”