Cynthia Stumpf didn’t take the traditional route to become a teacher. And her college career was far from conventional, too. As a freshman at Nicholls State University, she was a physical education major and a member of the first women’s basketball team. “I was 17, and I was excited to play. I loved basketball. I went for it”, she gushed. But after her third year, she got married and dropped out of college. Then she began having her four children while working at the family grocery store in Plaquemines Parish. Thirteen years went by before she finished her undergraduate degree. She also earned a Master’s in Curriculum Instruction and served as a librarian.
Mrs. Stumpf’s first teaching job was as a Physical Education instructor. Then over the next 27 years, she taught English, Science, Social Studies, Math, and Library Media. In her tenth year at UVA, the opportunity came for her to teach Physical Education, her lifelong dream as an educator. “I’ve always wanted to be a P.E. teacher. I really like it, and I’m trying to develop the course,” she stated. Doing anything physical in the online world sounds impossible, but the course works. Her students must complete 30 minutes of physical activity a day, four days a week. It’s 120 minutes a week, and what the students do is recorded in an activity log. At the end of the month, the students complete an assessment of their physical activity.
As part of her course development, Mrs. Stumpf incorporated tips for eating healthy, including how to grow vegetables depending on the season. She also presents fitness challenges and invites whole families to participate. Plus, Mrs. Stumpf uses her own experiences to influence the students. “I stay active and share that with them,” she explained. She has competed in triathlons, duathlons, adventure races, obstacle course races, and 10K and 5K races. She and her family are now training for the Strawberry Strut, a race at the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival later this month.
She’s very conscious of the connection she has with her students. “I feel like I reach them,” she offered. Mrs. Stumpf contacts her students via phone calls and messages, promoting positive student relationships and building student motivation. She said it’s more individualized contact than when she taught children face-to-face in a brick-and-mortar environment. “Online learning is a great option for our parents to educate their children in today’s society,” she declared. “I am happy to be a part of sowing a brighter future for our students at UVA. Like seeds, students also need care to flourish.”