By Maya Pottiger
Rich Wiles is making waves in his field. A physical education teacher at Severna Park Elementary School, Wiles is now in his 14th year of teaching. In April, he will accept the Mabel Lee Award.
“It was very nice to pick up an award after working for so many years on different things,” Wiles said. “Sometimes you go against the grain of what other people consider what’s standard and normal, and the award is nice because it recognizes at a young age your contributions to your profession and means you’re doing the right thing and hopefully it will continue.”
The Mabel Lee Award is given through SHAPE America. It “recognizes younger members who have demonstrated outstanding potential in scholarship, teaching, and/or professional leadership.” The award features two categories — “college and university” and “non-college and university” — and there are a maximum of two winners in each category every year.
This isn’t Wiles’ first award. In 2010, Wiles received the Simon McNeeley Award through SHAPE Maryland, and he was nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2011.
Something unique about Wiles’ position is he gets to spend six years building relationships with students.
“It’s nice because you get to see the kids grow at different stages. You get to see them hit different developmental milestones,” Wiles said. “You can develop a different relationship with students. The social and emotional pieces are so important in education, and it’s kind of the area we need to focus a little more on sometimes."
Outside of school, Wiles is involved in the physical education field. In 2015, Wiles wrote the Physical Education Digital Library, which has since been adopted by a “good amount” of school systems. He started working with U.S. Games, which then announced OPEN, the Online Physical Education Network.
“For OPEN, it’s been a game changer. Part of what I’ve done with the award is we’re giving away free curriculum to any school system, and we’re making it equitable for every school system,” Wiles said. “We’re giving the same high-class curriculum that Anne Arundel County pays a good amount of money to, to we now have 54,000 educators using it.”
Through OPEN, Wiles travels around the country to present in front of districts and implementation centers of physical instruction.
Wiles said his favorite part of being a physical education teacher is working with the next generation.
“I like trying to prepare your community for another generation of students, and hopefully they want to be physically active and want to continue being physically active, which is definitely needed in the United States right now,” Wiles said.
Wiles will accept the Mabel Lee Award on April 11 at the SHAPE America National Convention, which will be held in Tampa, Florida, this year.