TAHPERD to honor Amber Macneish and Pam Straker at annual conference this fall

TAHPERD to honor Amber Macneish and Pam Straker at annual conference this fall
Posted on 09/23/2021
TAHPERD to honor Amber Macneish and Pam Straker at annual conference this fall

TAHPERD to honor Amber Macneish and Pam Straker at annual conference this fall

By Reesha Brown
PISD Communications

Amber Macneish, P.E. Health and Wellness coordinator, and Pam Straker, Red Bluff Elementary P.E. teacher, have both been named award recipients by the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD).

Macneish has been selected to receive the K-12 Administrator of the Year award and Straker will receive the Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. 

The honorees will be recognized during TAHPERD’s 98th Annual Convention in Arlington, Texas on December 3.

Amber Macneish, K-12 Administrator of the Year

Macneish started her career in education in 2003 as a math teacher at San Jacinto Intermediate but she quickly realized that her heart was in physical education and health. She continued her career as a P.E. and health teacher in the district for the next 13 years before transitioning into the role of coordinated school health specialist in 2016. In 2018, Macneish was promoted to a leadership position as Pasadena ISD’s P.E., Health and Wellness Coordinator.

Her leadership over the years has been instrumental in creating healthy communities at the campus and district levels. Macneish has accomplished this goal by working collaboratively with countless health and P.E. teachers, district coordinators and public health leaders to support, implement and enhance health and wellness programs and initiatives in the district. 

Here are some of her proudest accomplishments.

Macneish, with support from her team, utilized the district’s Excellence in Wellness awards to recognize campuses that go above and beyond to engage in best practices using the whole child model. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 17 campuses earned the award this past year.

Macneish led efforts to ensure 100 percent campus participation in the Alliance for a Healthy Generation “Healthy Schools Program Index,” which empowers school communities to promote healthy living. Through the program, two campuses were named America’s Healthiest Schools and received Family Engagement Awards.

As a staunch advocate for quality physical education programs, Macneish and the P.E. Health and Wellness team have coordinated multiple fun, skills-based competitions and activities for students. These include the district’s Punt, Pass and Kick event, Big Shoot Out, track and field events, Get Fit Jog, Moving in the Middle intramurals, walk/bike to school events, Walk for Sight through the Lions Club and the Olympiad. 

Under Macneish’s leadership, Pasadena ISD has received numerous grants, including the Pasadena Vibrant Community Initiative, M.D. Anderson Sun Safety grant, Hurricane Harvey relief funding/grants for $10,000 among many others.

Throughout Macneish’s career, she has advocated and promoted school health and wellness at the district, regional and state level through various organizations and committees. She has served as a regional officer and member of TAHPERD, along with serving on the Exemplary Schools Committee and locally with Healthy Living Matters Pasadena.

Macneish has earned multiple awards and recognitions over the years, including the Let’s Move Active Schools National award in 2016, TAHPERD’s Teacher of the Year award nomination in 2016, TAHPERD’s Exemplary School award in 2014-15. She was also named an Action-Based Learning Lab Grant winner in 2013 and the H-E-B Excellence in Teaching award in 2008.  

“Amber has worked tirelessly over the last 10 years to make sure that health, wellness and fitness are front and center in the Pasadena School District,” said Dr. Karen Hickman, Pasadena ISD Deputy Superintendent. “She is absolutely incredible and is ready to meet any challenge and make sure that our kids get the very best to meet the needs of the whole child each and every day.”

Upon learning about the award designation, Macneish said, “While I am honored to have been nominated for this award, I believe it is bigger than me. This award honors the work that is collectively done in Pasadena ISD to support the needs of the whole child. I am only one member of an amazing team.” 

“Our school board has always supported our efforts to provide a well-rounded education. This award showcases our administrators’ dedication to ensuring that all of our students are healthy, active and ready to learn,” Macneish said.

Pam Straker, Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year

Straker is serving her eighth year in Pasadena ISD as a physical education teacher. She started her teaching career at Sparks Elementary in 2014 and then joined the Red Bluff Elementary Roadrunners in 2017. Straker has been teaching physical education at Red Bluff ever since. 

Over the years, Straker has found new innovative ways to engage students. 

Despite some challenges due to the COVID pandemic, Straker’s love for teaching helped her make the best out of the situation. Last year, for instance, she created warm-up videos to free up time to sanitize her classroom. 

“At the height of the pandemic in spring 2019, I created videos and zoom workouts to reach my students from home and try to create a sense of normalcy,” Straker said. “I am a life-long learner and enjoy learning new skills, which helps me with my students. If I’m never bored, they’re never bored. This creates a healthy and fresh style in my classroom.”

Straker graduated with an Exercise and Sports Science degree from Texas State University in San Marcos. During her studies, she joined TAHPERD and has been a member ever since. In addition to TAHPERD’s Teacher of the Year award, she will also be receiving the Greatest Female Educator award from OutSmart magazine.

TAHPERD is a non-profit organization that recognizes outstanding educators in the state for their dedication to teaching students to live healthy lives in the allied fields of health education, physical education, recreation, and dance.