Lawrence teacher Michel Loomis recognized by state as champion of health

Michel Loomis, an English teacher at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, visits with eighth-grade student Artannian Luafalemana in her classroom Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. Loomis will be recognized by Gov. Sam Brownback next week for going "above and beyond her classroom responsibilities" to promote fitness.

Michel Loomis, an English teacher at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, visits with eighth-grade student Artannian Luafalemana in her classroom Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. Loomis will be recognized by Gov. Sam Brownback next week for going "above and beyond her classroom responsibilities" to promote fitness. by Mike Yoder

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Friday that Gov. Sam Brownback will recognize longtime Lawrence teacher Michel Loomis on Thursday at the Kansas State Fair for being a champion of health.

Loomis, an English teacher at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, will receive an “individual honorable mention” award for “going above and beyond her classroom responsibilities to promote youth fitness.”

Loomis, 67, began working at Liberty Memorial Central 31 years ago as a physical education teacher, and then she taught English and physical education classes for many years until moving to just English a few years ago.

However, she still educates students about the importance of exercise and nutrition every chance she gets.

“She’s given a lot to this school,” said Jeff Harkin, the school’s new principal. “I think she always has a pet project — something else she’s promoting beyond the classroom.”

Among her projects:

Two-mile fun run. About 25 years ago, Loomis said another PE teacher, Mark Hodges, came up with a “great idea” to have a fun run, so she helped organize it and they had 69 students show up on a Saturday. Then, Hodges left Liberty Memorial Central the next year, so she decided to keep it going and turned it into an annual fundraiser. Every year, the 2-mile event raises about $20,000 for the school and every student participates — whether they walk, jog or run. This year’s event will be Nov. 2.

Smart Strength program. Loomis launched the after-school program for students four years ago with the help of Chad Richards, owner of a Lawrence fitness center called The Summit. Richards provides four or five trainers for the program, which is held twice a week. They do exercises that work on everything from strength to agility to flexibility. They usually start with group warm-ups and then break down into smaller groups. After a water break, they play volleyball, dodgeball, basketball or some other game.

The trainers and Loomis also teach the students about nutrition and will challenge them from time to time; for example, not to drink soda for two weeks.

The program started with 20 students and has grown to 70. Last year, staff members began participating as well.

“It makes for a really wonderful environment. You have young people cheering on the teachers who are struggling to get their eighth and ninth and 10th push-up in,” Loomis said.

The program costs about $10,000 a year, so Loomis raises money by writing grants and distributing brochures about the program. Some of the money from the fun run is used to support the Smart Strength program.

Morning gym. Loomis opens the school’s gym at 7:30 a.m. each day, so students can socialize and burn some energy; it’s something she started many years ago. About 100 students use the gym and typically there are several basketball games going on. The gym is referred to as “The Loomis Gym.”

Anna Stubblefield, former school principal at Liberty Memorial Central, said Loomis is not only a champion of health, but also of education in general.

“She has the unique ability to build those relationships with students to get them to go above and beyond — inside the classroom and outside the classroom,” Stubblefield said. “She’s really amazing.”

Janet Burnett Huchingson, left, and John Huchingson, treasurer of runLawrence, presented a check to Michel Loomis, center, who is the director of Smart Strength, an after-school athletic program at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. The donation was made possible through proceeds from the annual Thanksgiving Day 5K organized by runLawrence.

Janet Burnett Huchingson, left, and John Huchingson, treasurer of runLawrence, presented a check to Michel Loomis, center, who is the director of Smart Strength, an after-school athletic program at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. The donation was made possible through proceeds from the annual Thanksgiving Day 5K organized by runLawrence.

Chad Richards, center, demonstrates a stretch to the students at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School who are participating in the after-school Smart Strength program. The program, which was started by teacher Michel Loomis, aims to teach students how to eat right and be fit.

Chad Richards, center, demonstrates a stretch to the students at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School who are participating in the after-school Smart Strength program. The program, which was started by teacher Michel Loomis, aims to teach students how to eat right and be fit. by Kevin Anderson

Loomis also practices what she preaches. She participates in yoga and spinning classes and does strength training with Richards, who is her personal trainer.

“I feel like she’s kind of a pit bull. She’s relentless,” he said.

Richards said he commonly hears from Loomis’ former students, who say she influenced them to be a better person or live a healthier life.

“She changes people’s lives that’s for sure. She’s an angel on this Earth,” he said.

This year’s Kansas health champions are Rick Werling, a recently retired superintendent of Fort Scott’s public school district, and the Derby Recreation Commission. Other honorable mention recipients were Ashland Fitness Center and Kansas Recreation and Park Association.

Tagged: push-ups, fitness

Comments

sjgreen 1 year, 10 months ago

Congratulations to Ms. Loomis! She's such an inspiration. I was in junior high when she came to Central. I'll never forget those Jane Fonda videos.

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hilary 1 year, 10 months ago

Michel Loomis=champion of the world!

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Janet Olin 1 year, 10 months ago

Congratulations to Michel. She is truly amazing and I'm delighted her extra work and creative programs are being recognized.

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Phil Minkin 1 year, 10 months ago

What she has meant to so many kids over the years is remarkable. A wonderful, positive role model. Huge props.

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Cathy Carley 1 year, 10 months ago

Way to go Michel Loomis, Ruby and I always knew YOU ROCK!!!

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acg 1 year, 10 months ago

Congrats Ms. Loomis. I have to say, you and Jane Fonda kicked my a**. Not to mention that grueling bike ride up 15th street to the cemetery at the top of heart attack hill. The only saving grace from that was the ride back down. You were one cool lady to have as a teacher.

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western_kansas_girl 1 year, 10 months ago

So proud and happy to see your never-ending work, advocacy for, and dedication to the cause of youth fitness recognized, Michel!! I have got to add that I am so lucky to have you for my workout partner!!

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