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Ellen McPherson

Ellen McPherson

It had been thirty years since 5th grade homeroom teacher Ellen McPherson had been on a bike when the CYCLE Kids program came to her school.

“At the beginning of the program, most of my students were really excited to ride bikes during gym class. Kids who knew how to ride were ready to go, but knew nothing about safety, while the kids who couldn’t ride knew all about danger and were nervous to learn to ride for the first time! I knew the program was going to teach each student something new.”

One student in particular, Sydney, was terrified of riding. Even after her second class, she was too nervous to get on a bike. When Sydney approached her teacher about her fears, McPherson said, “I haven’t been on a bike in thirty years, but they say you never forget how to ride! I’ll get on and try it with you… if I fall, it won’t be the end of the world!” In the middle of the gym with all her students watching, Ellen McPherson rode a bicycle for the first time in three decades.

“Sydney was exuberant,” said McPherson, “and wrote in her CYCLE Kids workbook about the experience.” “All of the kids got a kick out of the fact that I am small enough to ride a kid’s bike with them.” According to McPherson, helping Sydney overcome her fear was “one of my best teaching moments in thirty-three years.”

This experience helped McPherson and Sydney form a special bond. “Sydney is a student who has English as a second language. She often struggles with verb tenses in both speech and writing. She was afraid to try new things in the classroom because she was afraid to say or write something wrong.” The CYCLE Kids program has helped change her attitude. “She learned about taking a risk,” McPherson said. “I think that for Sydney, the bike was a metaphor for learning.” Sydney has shown improvement and confidence academically since participating in the CYCLE Kids program. McPherson is an avid supporter of the CYCLE Kids curriculum and loves that it integrates both exercise and literacy into her students' education. “The kids have such enthusiasm about riding bikes, that they also enjoy reading about bikes and writing about bikes.” In addition, McPherson says that the CYCLE Kids program has become a catalyst for creating more curricula in the schools that connect kids to the notion of moving, which is important because, “kids don’t move enough!” McPherson hopes to build upon the lessons her students learn in the CYCLE Kids classes next year by inviting nutritionists and athletes to come talk to the kids.

The CYCLE Kids program has also changed Ellen McPherson’s life at home. She received a bicycle from her husband as a gift and says she is walking and biking more, and trying new classes at the local gym. McPherson said, “I think of Sydney every time I ride my bike.”