Jacqueline Stoffel has redefined what teaching physical education to high school students looks like. The impact is life-changing.

She created an environment where students are worried less about the competition and more about a friendship. While gaining new skills, her students at Bemidji High School are having fun, building connections and learning the key to happiness.

“Everyone around Mrs. Stoffel’s class is a better student,” said Will, who is known as an athlete in her unified class. “She has helped me become a better person because she has been a good teacher to me and a good friend.”

A New Approach

After seeing the impact of unified sports, Stoffel wanted to find a way to bring the impact of unified sports to her class every day. So, she developed a new schedule and structure to make it happen.

“All of my friends have helped me out through the years to help me become the person that I am,” Aidan said, pictured to the right with his unified partner Marlondo.

The unified physical education program, developed by Special Olympics, pairs students with disabilities and those without to learn, connect and serve one another.

Ripple Effect

The program is designed to build inclusion in the school and foster leadership skills. Stoffel has found that it reduces classroom behavioral issues and creates more excitement for class each day.

“Then, it trickles down to the hallways, and the lunchroom and then outside of school,” Stoffel said. “They just build those friendships.”

The program also has led to more unified activities throughout the school, from unified sports and cooking classes to yard games and a formal dance.

“Her goal is to build relationships authentically between herself and everyone else,” said Tim Lutz, superintendent of Bemidji Public Schools, “and to create an environment where she nurtures that kind of building of relationships.”

Educator of Excellence

MREA honored Stoffel as a 2020 Educator of Excellence for her innovation, collaboration and unwavering commitment to get results for her students. See more stories of Educators for Excellence.