Pedaling with Pena

If you drive down North Virginia street in the morning before school starts, you might see JW Long Elementary PE teacher, David Peña, riding his bike to work.   Peña, who is lovingly referred to as “Coach” by his students, has taught PE for eight years and has been at JW Long for the past two. 

“My wife and I bought a house in Terrell that is just under three miles from the school,” shared Coach Peña.  “When we moved in, it dawned on me that I could literally ride a bike to work.  A few weeks later I purchased a bike and I haven’t looked back since.” 

Growing up, Coach Peña shared that his love for working with kids began at a young age.  In high school he volunteered at his church helping with Vacation Bible School, Children's Church and various kid’s camps.  When the  opportunity presented itself to continue working with kids as a PE teacher, it was an easy decision for him to make. 

Coach Peña believes that his job as a PE teacher is to plant the seed - not just to be active, but to enjoy it.  “For me it is not about cranking out D1 athletes,” he said. “My hope is that I introduce my students to various sports and activities that will help them to create a healthy lifestyle long into adulthood.” 

While PE has traditionally been viewed as an opportunity for students to expend energy and enjoy a brain break, Peña shared that the class also teaches students social and emotional skills. “When we play games, there are winners and losers,” he said. “Students have to learn how to win with humility or how to properly work out their frustrations when they lose. They also have to learn to work together as a team which requires excellent communication skills.  It is much more than just running and playing, we are developing social skills.”

JW Long Principal Malori Wooten had great things to say about Coach Pena. “Coach Pena is such a treasure to J.W. Long,” Ms. Wooten shared. “One of the very first things he told me about his teaching style was that he believes students can learn valuable athletic and PE skills through play, and that is exactly what our students love about him. He makes PE and being active fun and his dedication to our campus and community is tremendous.”

Last spring, Peña volunteered to be the sponsor of the school’s soccer club.  He shared that the skill level of the students in the club range from having never kicked a ball or played in a game to those who have been members of a team for several years. “It’s important to give kids exposure to various sports,” he said. He hopes that the club, which will start again in February, will continue to grow beyond the 25-30 members who currently participate. 

At the end of each day, Peña packs his backpack and pedals the three miles back home where he will get up and do it all over again the next day.  “As a PE teacher, I want to set an example,” he shared.  “If I expect the kids to be active then I need to practice what I preach.”