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Cabell County PE Teacher Earns WVPB's Above And Beyond Award

A photo of Matthew Adkins of Spring Hill Elementary School in Huntington, West Virginia.

Matthew Adkins, an elementary school teacher in Cabell County, has earned West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Above and Beyond Award, which recognizes the excellence and creativity of Mountain State teachers.

Adkins, who teaches physical education at Spring Hill Elementary School in Huntington, joins the ranks of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Above And Beyond winners. He was presented with a monetary award, signature Blenko Above And Beyond blue apple paperweight, and a host of other special gifts made possible through the generous sponsorship of the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, presenter of the SMART529 college savings program in the Mountain State.

“I am a teacher because I love kids. I love seeing light bulbs go off. I love to see progress,” Adkins said. “I teach PE because I love to stay active, and I think physical activity is key to living a long, happy, and more valuable life. I try to expose my students to as many things as possible. We do everything from soccer to gaga ball to disc golf and silly games like hungry, hungry hippos.”

He said as kids get to the 4th or 5th grade, they become less active and uninterested in gym class. Many don’t like team sports like football, basketball, soccer or baseball, and they get embarrassed because gaps in skill level are too drastic for those team sports to be enjoyable for everyone.

“So instead of focusing time on the most popular activities, I like to expose them to things that they can do the rest of their lives,” said Adkins, who secured funding through two Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout projects and his connection in regional sports communities to build one of Cabell County’s first GaGa Ball Pits, a disc golf course, and a loop trail in the woods next to his school that can be utilized for exercise and as an outdoor learning space for the natural sciences.

“I just want them to be active. That’s where the idea of the nature trail came from. I want them to fall in love with the smells, the sound of the wind through the trees and all the wonderful things that come with hiking. Being in an urban setting, it’s nice to give not only the school a space to explore, but the community, too,” Adkins said.

Adkins was nominated by Dave Lavender, assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scouts of America Troop 21, after he worked with the teacher on those special projects to take physical education outside for students. He said Adkins is an inspiring teacher who is always ready to play, take time to listen and get his students involved in recreation and wellness on their levels.

“As someone who was on the board of Create Huntington, Adkins is a natural community connector who people want to help because of his passion and hustle for his school and his students,” Lavender said, adding that Adkins is “ahead of the curve and national trends” for dreaming and building out his elementary school as a safe neighborhood play space and urban greenspace, which has become increasingly recognized as necessary for public wellness in the wake of COVID.

“In today’s complex digital world and in West Virginia where we have so many at-risk kids and kids growing up in trauma, Matt truly understands the absolute necessity for kids to unplug from their devices and get out and play. To do so, he is helping create a myriad of ways for them to engage in physical activity, and to be in nature to stimulate learning and to help foster mental well-being.”

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