Physical education teachers promote lifelong, health-related components of fitness. Many former athletes, coaches, dancers or active individuals are drawn to this field because it appeals to their active lifestyles and life experience. To become a physical education teacher, you must pursue both an education degree as well as focus on the sciences.
Theory and Methods Courses
Physical education straddles two departments as students are required to take courses in both teacher education as well as physical education. Physical education teachers are responsible for knowing the history, rules and teaching methods of every major team and individual sport. Courses include physical education history, physical education administration and management, methods of teaching physical education, coaching and officiating, health, wellness, introduction to education, education methods, educational psychology, classroom management and special education offerings.
A physical education degree is a science degree. So students take courses similar to those students studying pre-med, biology and physical therapy. Kinesiology, exercise physiology and anatomy and physiology with lab are the bare bones minimum science courses required and satisfy the National Association for Sport and Physical Education accrediting bylaws, mandating physiological and biological competence. Other courses such as motor learning, athletic injuries and applied anatomy are often part of the degree requirements.
Physical education teachers must know how to play every major sport that a curriculum offers. So if you aren’t adept at softball, you will have to learn the sport even if you don't master it. If you are lacking the hand-eye coordination required for badminton, get your shuttlecock and racquet ready to practice. This sport as well as everything from swimming to flag football is part of your curriculum. Activity courses generally include flag football, soccer, softball, swimming, badminton, track and field, weight lifting, basketball, gymnastics and tumbling, volleyball, tennis and racquetball, aerobics and dance. You'll take these courses for credit toward your degree as well as to master their skills to teach them to your students.
Whether you go through a bachelor’s or a master’s-level teaching program, student teaching is a required course for certification. Usually a 12-unit course that spans the entire semester, student teaching provides you with the opportunity to create physical education lesson plans and implement what you have learned in your coursework when working with real students under the guidance of a supervising teacher. Student-teachers actually teach in the classroom (or field, pool or track). Their performance is evaluated just as student teachers in a traditional classroom environment.
Degrees, Tests and Certifications
Physical education majors have to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Many go on to receive a master’s-level certification. In addition to the degree, national tests such as the Praxis series of exams are required by most states. Guidelines vary by state, and competitive districts often require more training and certification.
- NASPE: National Standards for Initial Physical Education Teacher Education
- Dr. Donald Staffo, Ph.D.; Higher Education; Tuscaloosa, AL
Sabrina Prieur is an expert on education, health, fitness, physical education and sports/athletics. She has a BS in health and physical education, a master's degree in education, and a PhD in leadership with a concentration in sports management and administration. A collegiate professor and athletics administrator, she's taught and coached various sports in the public schools and inner city.