by Dan Holland
Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School health and physical education teacher Maria Schneider was recently awarded the 2021 SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) District Teacher of the Year award for the Midwest region in the health education category.
Schneider won Ohio Health Teacher of the Year last year through the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, which qualified her to apply for the Midwest district competition this year.
Next year, she will compete against this year’s three other regional winners (Central, Eastern and South) for the national title.
All entrants are nominated by other teachers and colleagues and must include an application to be considered for the award.
“I didn’t even realize at the time of winning [the state award] that Midwest would be the next step, that you get to do that after you win the state teacher of the year award,” Schneider said. “So I thought, ‘I’ll try, but that will probably be really hard.’ I’m just really honored and kind of blown away to have won. I’ve been a member of OAPHERD for many years, and two years ago I helped write a model curriculum for health teachers.”
Schneider, a 1991 graduate of Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, began teaching in the district in 1996 and became a full-time physical education teacher at the middle school in 2000. She gradually transitioned from PE to teaching health classes in recent years.
She is the daughter of Joan Ganim and the late Ron Ganim, who were longtime health, PE teachers and gymnastics coaches in the district and founded Gymnastics World in Broadview Heights in 1975. After working as an assistant high school gymnastics coach with her parents for many years, Schneider became head coach last year and led the school to a 17th straight state title (20th overall).
“I actually competed for the Bees,” she said. “I was born and raised in this city, so I kind of bleed red and gold. I tell the girls that in every state championship, there’s something unique about the whole experience that makes it special, this year certainly being no exception.”
Schneider found her calling to teach early.
“When I was in eighth grade, my mom brought me in to help teach some special needs students as an assistant with her at [Gymnastics World],” she said. “I was so nervous, but then as soon as I left that first class, I knew right then, in eighth grade, that I was going to be a teacher.”
She has noticed a shift in the way health education is taught now compared to when she was a student.
“It’s no longer just geared toward the physical anymore; it’s not just about eating and exercising,” she said. “There’s so much emphasis on the mental and emotional aspects that are so important now.”
“She’s basically the sparkle of our school,” said middle school Principal Todd Rings of Schneider. “She’s well-known in the community, she’s well-respected, and there’s not a better person I can think of to have won this award.”
Schneider, who lives in Broadview Heights with her husband Bill and their two sons, Joey and Jimmy – both gymnasts – still helps out at Gymnastics World alongside her mom and brothers.
Feature image photo caption: Maria Schneider