FAMILIAR%3A+Mr.+Plax+has+coached+Firehawk+basketball+team%2C+and+Ms.+Joel%2C+who+works+as+an+occupational+therapist%2C+is+married+to+former+Assistant+Executive+Director+Mr.+Nachum+Joel.+%28BP+Photos+by+Sam+Elyaszadeh%29

FAMILIAR: Mr. Plax has coached Firehawk basketball team, and Ms. Joel, who works as an occupational therapist, is married to former Assistant Executive Director Mr. Nachum Joel. (BP Photos by Sam Elyaszadeh)

New P.E. teachers turn to yoga, Zumba, weights and self-motivation

Atara Joel and Adam Plax join the teaching faculty for one separate-gender class per week

Mr. Adam Plax and Ms. Atara Joel, the new P.E teachers, will try to get students to use the lessons they learn in sports or P.E. and apply them to everyday life.

But first, they’re changing the P.E. curriculum. Instead of running in circles around the gym and working on calisthenics as in pre-Covid years, the new teachers are teaching yoga, Zumba and Pilates, upper and lower body and core strengthening exercises, and improved speed and agility. They’re also using a new weight room in the basement.

Ms. Joel, an occupational therapist who also has worked as a personal trainer, will be teaching freshman and sophomore girls. She hopes that the class will be run by the students setting and reaching their own goals. She said in an interview last week, 

“They get involved by… using their specific goals to drive the class to make sure that they are engaged, enjoying and pushing themselves because they like that,” Ms. Joel said.

P.E is going to be very self-motivated.. and working towards finding what pushes you and motivates you.

— Mr. Adam Plax, boys PE teacher

She said she knows from working with kids ages three to 10 in occupational therapy that helping kids be the best they can be increases their confidence. She said that’s good for high school students as well.

 “If they feel stronger, more powerful, hopefully they will have more confidence in all different areas,” said Ms. Joel, who is married to former Assistant Executive Director Mr. Nachum Joel.

Mr. Plax, who has been assistant Firehawk basketball coach in recent years and now is coaching the JV and freshman teams, will be teaching P.E. for the freshman and sophomore boys.

 “If something doesn’t go your way, you say ‘next play’ and you move forward,” Mr. Plax stated in an interview Sept. 13 that was conducted next to the gym.

Separate classes for boys and girls is also a change for Shalhevet P.E., which was co-ed before Covid. (There was no regularly scheduled P.E. during Covid.)

WORKOUT: PE classes this year are using the new weight room in the basement, which is across from B101. (BP Photo by Evan Beller)

The classes are small, because the only students required to take them are those who are not involved in any team or outside sport. That leaves just two classes – separated by gender now, which they were not before the pandemic – one for boys and one for girls, each class combining both ninth and 10th grades.

According to Principal Mr. Daniel Weslow, enrollment is fewer than 10 in each class.  Boys meet during Flex on Thursdays, while the girls meet during Flex on Mondays.

Both teachers plan to use individual goal-setting for motivation.  The goal, they said, in addition to physical growth is to get students to achieve their self-set goals and use them in everyday life. 

“P.E is going to be very self-motivated.. and working towards finding what pushes you and motivates you,” said Mr. Plax. 

If they feel stronger, more powerful, hopefully they will have more confidence in all different areas. ”

— Ms. Atara Joel, girls PE teacher

Both teachers have long experience with personal exercise and personal growth.

Living in L.A all his life, Mr. Plax runs a beachside motorcycle club, which he said attracts 100 to 150 motorcycle riders to drive along the beach together all at the same time.

Mr. Plax, who is also one of the Shalhevet basketball coaches, said he likes the high school atmosphere of kids that are in the process of becoming adults.

Ms. Joel since moving here three years ago from New York works as an occupational therapist and taught art and yoga classes.  Some of her hobbies are skiing, painting and running.

She said she hopes her students will recognize what they are able to do by reaching their goals, and that they will be able to take what they learn in P.E elsewhere. 

In fact, Ms. Joel had a personal experience with that, last year at the L.A half-marathon.

She had an injured knee and therefore could not go as fast as she wanted to – but was proud that she was able to finish in good timing even with that setback.

And though she is only at Shalhevet  an hour a week, she wants students to know that she is always available.

“If anything I have said in the interview has resonated with any of your readers, I am available to meet, hang out, whatever,” Ms. Joel said. “Just because I am there for that hour doesn’t mean I am not there for the whole Shalhevet community.”

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