Steelman earns elementary school $45K in ‘Healthy School Makeover Contest’


Kerri Steelman, far right, with student teacher Makayla White and Steelman’s Buffalo Jones 3rd grade class.

More than 325 Pre-K through 4th grade students at Buffalo Jones Elementary School in Garden City, Kan., will soon be on the path to leading healthier lives, thanks to Newman University student Kerri Steelman.

Steelman, a 3rd grade teacher at the school, created a video explaining how the school could improve healthy lifestyles among students for the “Healthy School Makeover Contest,” a nationwide competition for Pre-K-12 schools sponsored by physical education program provider SPARK. Steelman’s video was selected from among more than 200 entries across the nation for the grand prize of $45,000 worth of physical education products and services.

“When we were posted as finalists, Mrs. Solis, our building principal, made a school-wide announcement,” Steelman said. “The sounds of cheering staff and students filled the hallways. I don’t think any of us actually expected to win the competition.”

Steelman earned her curriculum and instruction ESOL master of science degree in education in May 2012 taking classes through the Newman University Western Kansas Center. She created the winning video based on a fitness program she developed for Buffalo Jones faculty and staff as a School Enhancement Project required for her building leadership licensure endorsement program, which she will complete this year through the Western Kansas Center.

Kerri Steelman

Steelman caught wind of the Healthy School Makeover competition via Buffalo Jones Nurse Patty Aguilara, who regularly sends e-mails to faculty with health and fitness grants and competition opportunities. Steelman thought the contest would be a great extension of her School Enhancement Project. Steelman interviewed school and community members for the video, and asked school district Instructional Technologist Casey Wise to help edit it.

Steelman also credited Makayla White, who worked in Steelman’s classroom as a student intern while pursuing her elementary education licensure at Newman, for allowing Steelman time to pursue the lengthy award application process.

The video received the majority of the 129,000 total public votes cast during the contest, bringing the school the $45,000 Healthy School Makeover Grant, which includes physical education and nutrition curricula, equipment packages and training materials from a variety of health-related companies and foundations to help educators promote wellness and healthy habits in Buffalo Jones students. The school will receive the equipment and materials for the 2013-2014 school year.

In addition to the Makover grant, Steelman has garnered other awards and honors, including the Crystal Apple Teacher Award, a Garden City Foundation mini-grant and the Healthy Heroes Grant, which was used to support the school’s Fitness Club.

Still, Steelman rates the $45,000 Makeover award as among her top achievements.

“After the marketing director from SPARK informed us that we had won, we announced the fantastic news to our staff at the Buffalo Jones Winter Holiday Party,” she said. “My colleagues’ shocked expressions followed by massive cheering is a moment that I will never forget.”

See the Buffalo Jones video at