What does a Physical Education Teacher do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A physical education teacher instructs students in how to keep their bodies fit through good health practices and exercise. He may work at an elementary, middle, or high school level, or teach at various educational levels. The job may be at one school, or he may rotate his teaching schedule among several.

A physical education teacher instructs students how to eat healthily.
A physical education teacher instructs students how to eat healthily.

Depending on the ages of the students, the physical workout options generally include a wide range of exercise activities performed through participation in different sports and games. The curriculum may include team sports, one-on-one competition, or individual games. Classes may be segregated by gender or include a mixture of male and female students.

Gymnasiums are used for physical education.
Gymnasiums are used for physical education.

At the elementary school level, a physical education teacher typically focuses on developing the students’ dexterity and coordination skills as well as teamwork skills. It is common for the teacher to try to instill an appreciation of physical activity in the students during these formative years. He normally does this through displaying exuberance for the games and excitement over each student’s performance.

High school physical education classes may include more advanced activities like tennis.
High school physical education classes may include more advanced activities like tennis.

In a secondary school environment, the teacher generally has more defined programs in the curriculum to develop students’ strengths and serve their interests. Traditional physical education options in high school typically include team sports such as soccer, football, baseball, softball, and basketball. Other offerings may include track, swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, golf, and tennis. More modern exercise options, such as dance, rollerblading, aerobics, Pilates, and rock climbing, are available at some secondary schools as well.

Physical education teachers may coach school teams.
Physical education teachers may coach school teams.

Physical education programs generally require the teacher to be more than a coach or activities director. He is normally expected to provide education on the importance of a healthy diet in conjunction with physical activity. Dispensing information on how fresh foods and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals typically enhance a person’s vitality and longevity is typically expected from the teacher.

Wrestling is often offered in high school or college athletic programs.
Wrestling is often offered in high school or college athletic programs.

In addition to educating his students on healthy eating and lifestyles, a physical education teacher normally prepares lesson plans and assignments for each of his classes as well. He also customarily maintains records of each student’s physical fitness and academic progress during the school year. Meeting with teachers and attending faculty conferences is also commonly required of a teacher in this position.

Gym teachers often guide students in team sports.
Gym teachers often guide students in team sports.

A bachelor’s degree in health and physical education is normally required for this position. Many regions also require a teaching certificate to work at public schools. Personal experience in playing or coaching sports activities is normally desirable. A positive attitude and upbeat personality are often preferred for job applicants.

Physical education teachers help students understand the fundamentals of a variety of sports.
Physical education teachers help students understand the fundamentals of a variety of sports.

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Discussion Comments


@belted - With most forms of teacher certification the test and the requirements vary by state. Be sure to check out your own state's requirements before you make any commitments. They might be more expensive, involved and time consuming than you realize.


What is the process for getting my physical education teacher certification? Do I need to take special classes, or can I dive straight into the test?

A lot of time the PE teacher does not get any respect. We just think of them as aging jocks who have nothing better to do with their lives than play basketball with 10 year olds.

But anyone that has done even a shallow amount of research into childhood health can tell you how important it is. At the same time that our kids are getting bigger, their access to PE and recess time is shrinking. The cause and effect is obvious. We need passionate and vocal PE teachers to advocate for the importance of physical activity in schools. Otherwise we will have a lost generation of children.


My teacher for physical education would always let girls sit out the workout session if we were on our period. She was great like that. She knew that the fatigue and bloating that came with that time of the month made it very hard to exercise.

I dreaded the warmups and jumping jack type exercises, but I loved it when we would actually play a sport. Dodge ball was my favorite. Because kids can be cruel, we played it with a big plush foam ball, and I was the best at dodging it.

Volleyball was also fun. I loved slamming that ball over the net! It was a great way to relieve frustration, which I had a lot of back then.


@seag47 – I think that in elementary school, they know that kids respond more to actual exercise than to being taught in a classroom. In fact, I don't remember actually staying in a classroom during physical education until high school.

Before then, we had a separate health class. It didn't seem to have any relation to our active physical education class, or maybe I just didn't make the connection.


What do the lesson plans of physical education teachers look like? How much time are they required to spend in the classroom, teaching kids about health, and how much time do they spend making them exercise?


My elementary school physical education class didn't include any information about eating right. All we did was go straight to the gym and do a series of stretches and light aerobics.

I found many of the stretches challenging. There were some kids in the class who could do the splits, but I wasn't one of them. My physical education teacher tried to push me to stretch further, but doing so would have injured me!

I wasn't too fond of this teacher. She was pushy and didn't seem to care if we hurt ourselves.


You all are very sexist and I do not like the use of the pronoun he when it can very well also be a she!


@Cafe41-I agree and I think that you can get a teacher certification which is about thirty credits in physical education in order to qualify for a job as a physical education teacher.


I think that becoming a physical education teacher would be a lot of fun. In my children’s school they normally have physical education classes three times per week. On one of the days they do swimming drills where they race against each other and other days they do organized sports like kickball or dodge ball.

It is really fun to get paid to teach children how to play and exercise. I also know that the elementary physical education teachers also have to test the students on the yearly Presidential Fitness Award standards. They usually have to do so many running laps sit ups, as well as timed jump rope exercises in order to get a certificate.

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