Tacoma PE teacher gets animated to keep kids moving

There is no doubt, remote learning has been hard on kids and teachers.

It's why we wanted to applaud Tacoma PE Teacher Matt Wood who is getting quite animated to keep kids active!

For Wood, he's gone from playing dodge ball in the gym, to dodging dinosaurs on screen due to the pandemic. 

It's one of his animated exercise videos he started creating for his students. 

“I’m just trying to make it interesting and fun, something that kids would like to do. Video games and cartoons and things they can relate to,” Wood said. 

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The 45-year-old at Tacoma’s Stafford Elementary realized last spring, teaching physical education over a computer had his students feeling disconnected.

So, he got in the game, turning his living room into a video production studio. He used PVC pipes and sheets he got at a fabric store to build a green screen. 

It's time-consuming work. Some of Wood's videos take him 20 hours to produce. He doesn't have a background in video production. He's self-taught, using his iPhone, iPad, iMovie for editing, and PowerPoint for graphics, software most of us have on our computers. 

Each exercise video has a theme and requires students to play along.

For Halloween, there was "Pumpkin Smash." 

Before Thanksgiving, his "Turkey Trot" left students wanting seconds.

"Jurassic Parkour" delivers a real cliffhanger as Wood jumps off a waterfall to escape a T-Rex that's closing in. 

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“I think the best feedback I get is watching them all exercise," Wood said about his students taking part in the videos. "Having fun. Saying at the end, 'Oh, I’m so tired, I’m out of breath,' which is exactly what we’re trying to get out of it.” 

He says, as a teacher and father of three, he's concerned that due to the pandemic too many kids are spending too much time sitting in front of screens.

Wood is not going to retire his video production skills when kids return to the classroom.

He says the exercise videos have worked so well, he plans to use them in the future, when he will be able to enjoy the kids’ reactions in person. 

“The superstars here are all of the kids,” Wood said. “They’re the ones who are showing up every day and making my job worthwhile for sure!"

A PE teacher who is proving, just because he can’t be in the gym with his students, doesn’t mean it’s game over.