Alumnus, Josh Meibos (MPE '11), takes home Teacher of the Year Award

By

Meghan Krein
Josh Meibos

Josh Meibos: 2018 Arizona Teacher of the Year

In chatting with alumnus and newly awarded Arizona Teacher of the Year, Josh Meibos (MPE '11), I’m reminded of a quote by Nelson Mandela: Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. Let me tell you why. But first, let’s go back to the beginning.

Before Meibos was a physical education teacher at Crockett Elementary in east Phoenix (K–6), he was managing Abercrombie & Fitch stores in Salt Lake City, Seattle and Hawaii. Meibos got the job right out of college and scouted, trained and developed managers for the company for three years.

Meibos excelled in the company and was compensated well, but there was something missing. “I remember observing the directors of the company and thinking their professional life was not what I wanted for myself. Eventually, I became unmotivated and knew I needed to reevaluate what exactly it was I wanted out of life,” Meibos says.

A move in the right direction

While reflecting, Meibos thought back to his college days. “I was a college athlete and throughout my college career I found myself involved with teaching and coaching opportunities.” Being a born educator, Meibos longed for more than a career focused on generating numbers. “I’ve always had a passion for teaching and coaching, so a career change in that direction seemed obvious.”

Once again, Meibos found himself back on a college campus — this time as a 30-year-old. Meibos graduated with a Master’s in Physical Education from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and is going on his seventh year at Crockett Elementary, which serves the largest refugee population in his district.

Sure, Meibos is teaching a very diverse crowd, but he’s quick to point out, “Students of refugee status are treated just like every other student: equally.” He says his main focus is creating a safe learning environment for all of his students, adding, “And in doing that, I have the awesome opportunity to learn about many different cultures and I’m challenged to piece those views together and develop a learning community within my physical education program.”

Of course there are times when Meibos does need to recognize diversity. “I do take into consideration culture and religious differences. For example, girls wearing dresses and hijabs, or families observing a holiday in which a student must fast or be absent.”

Exercising the golden rule

Many media outlets have described Meibos as “kind.” It’s clear to see why. “I get to be a positive role model — possibly, in some situations, I may be the only male role model a student interacts with.” It’s no secret that connecting with kids can be challenging. Meibos has a successful strategy, “I use one of students’ favorite subjects, physical education, to teach kindness and respect for their bodies, themselves and each other.”

Meibos is aware that physical education isn’t the first thing people think about when it comes to hard-core academics. “Physical education is a key component to a child’s learning as a whole. It carries the responsibility of educating our youth about health and wellness, and develops a sustainable cognitive and kinesthetic understanding of the body.” He believes physical education teachers have a unique and powerful opportunity in interacting with students, “I am able to help students build connections to math, language arts and science through physical education.”

In his teaching, Meibos is a big proponent of team-building exercises. “They promote empathy, perseverance, confidence, good sportsmanship and appreciation for their personal health and the health of their family and friends.” He also creates a curriculum that complements classroom work and folds in a 3-D approach.

Meeting people who made him do what he could

Meibos says Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College helped propel him to where he is now in his career. “The faculty gave me the confidence and the program surrounded me with like-minded peers. We geeked out on physical education curriculum.”

When Meibos began his clinical experience, he says his whole view on education changed. He was paired with two “incredible” mentors who he says gave him lasting experiences, advice, challenges and support. “I feel fortunate to have been in that program. It stretched my mind and helped me understand the whole child’s learning needs. Every course was tied into shaping me to be a well-rounded educator on child development, the human brain and the benefits of physical education in children.

Although Meibos keeps a pretty sunny outlook on his field, he is aware of the challenges teachers face in today’s classroom. He first points out teacher retention. “Not only has it become difficult to keep a teacher, but it’s equally challenging to recruit teachers. Arizona has over 1,000 unfilled teacher positions and has lost almost 500 teachers this year alone.” It’s a sobering statistic and one Meibos believes is due to pay. “Arizona is dead last in the country when it comes to teacher pay and work environment. Our elected officials have the power and control to change this and it’s vital that we are informed and involved in our local elections.”

Not one to stay down for long, Meibos balances out the conversation, “There are many amazing things happening in education, as well. There are passionate teachers. There are local officials and local business leaders invested in making a better tomorrow for teachers and the success of our children.”

Congratulations, Mr. Meibos.

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