EL Physical Education Teacher Dedicated to Creating Community and Making Fitness Fun

Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 7:00 am
Julie Rojewski

Casey Bain, the Physical Education teacher at Marble Elementary School in East Lansing, is a finalist for the Director’s Champion for Health Award, one of the Governor’s Fitness Awards, sponsored by the Michigan Fitness Foundation. The winner will be announced on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at a gala awards dinner in Detroit, but to many families in East Lansing, Bain is already a winner.

Bain was nominated for this award by a Courtney Trunk, a Marble parent. “Her devotion to her students and the creativity with which she engages them far surpasses anything expected of or required by educators, and she has made such an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of children in this community (including my own children) that I felt her excellence deserved recognition,” said Trunk.

That “dedication” and “creativity” come through in some of the new clubs organized by Bain. These include a “Thriller Club” for 5th graders to learn the dance from the famous Michael Jackson video, and perform it for the school, and an archery club that, in its second year, won 3rd place at the state tournament sponsored by the National Archery in the Schools Program. It also includes a Speed Stacking club and a recent tournament for local Speed Stackers. Bain’s clubs, offered before school, after school, and during recess, seek to keep children active and to honor their interests, be they balancing, bowling, bouncing, or basketball.

Bain, right, speaks with an official at the 2016 state
tournament for the National Archery in the Schools Program, while some of
the Marble Archery Team looks on.

Bain has influenced families throughout the community during her time teaching in East Lansing Public Schools. After graduating with her teaching degree from MSU, Bain spent a couple of years substitute teaching while she looked for a full-time position. Eventually she was hired as a long-term substitute at Spartan Village School, offering support for an MSU grant which permitted her a predictable schedule, teaching in the same classroom one day, each week.

Patricia Trelstad, currently Assistant Superintendent at Okemos Public Schools, was the principal at Spartan Village and recalled Bain’s energy from their time together at Spartan Village. She said, “Casey was one of the most enthusiastic young teachers that I had ever met. She was committed to offering a program that was true ‘quality’ from top to bottom, start to finish. She labored over lesson plans and homework assignments. She wanted to make sure that each lesson and practice activity was engaging and meaningful for students.”

Bain’s dedication paid off: the day before school started in 1993, Spartan Village School realized they would need another teacher. Bain had spent the entire week leading up to the new year helping other teachers set up their classrooms and put up their bulletin boards, when she was approached at 5 p.m. and asked if she could step in as a permanent substitute teacher for this new classroom.

Bain said yes, and recalls that “I had been doing bulletin boards all week. All of my colleagues left at 5 so they could get some rest before school started the next day…and all of the sudden I was just getting started,” said Bain. “I was there most of the night trying to get the room ready so I could welcome the students!”  

She was hired as the full-time 3rd grade teacher that year, and spent the next decade moving back and forth between Spartan Village and Red Cedar Elementary schools, depending on which school had need of a teacher with her experience. “For the first couple of years, I packed up my entire classroom at the end of the year, and moved it to my basement, because I didn’t know if I’d have a job in the fall. Then I started feeling more comfortable about having a classroom somewhere, and I still packed everything up in boxes. I just left it in the school covered in sheets instead of bringing it home!” It wasn’t until 2004, when she was transferred to Marble Elementary, that she had a stable teaching assignment and classroom.

Bain taught 3rd grade at Marble for 6 years, before pursuing the Physical Education position in 2010. For her, it was a natural transition. “I had brought a lot of wellness into my classroom teaching, including Wellness Wednesdays and Fitness Fridays. I organized different clubs during recess time, to give kids different ways to be active.”

Abbie Draheim, now a 7th grader at MacDonald Middle School, said of Bain, “She was really nice, and loved teaching gym, and always loved when we worked really hard.” Draheim is active on her own, playing soccer and running track for MMS, but she recalls liking the diversity of activities in Bain’s gym. “I liked the different units we did—they were fun fitness things, jump roping routines, Cosmic Bowling. For each unit we did a fun activity at the end to show what we learned, which made it something to look forward to.”

Bain took many of her established classroom traditions to her new role as P.E. teacher. “I had always worked hard to have community in my classroom and make the school a welcoming place for parents and siblings—inviting families for potlucks, asking parents to come and discuss their family traditions and culture or playing games at Family Fun nights. I do the same thing now in the gym, with the fall tailgate, and all of the performances,” she said, referring to the many opportunities she offers for families to come and see gym performances, such as a drumming unit or basketball.

Family members are encouraged to play along with the students during activities like the Cosmic Bowling unit Draheim mentioned as a favorite PE activity and memory from Marble. For this celebration Bain spends a weekend converting the school gym into a “disco themed” bowling alley, complete with mirror balls, retro music, and carpeted bowling lanes.  

Including families is a natural extension of Bain’s philosophy on teaching P.E. “Encouraging kids to be active, to engage. I’m not training the next NBA star,” she said, “But every child should know how to properly shoot a basketball so when they are at a family reunion and people wants to play “horse,” they’ll have the desire and confidence to join in.”

That commitment to promoting healthy activities across the lifespan—and “not just in traditional sports,” Bain emphasized, “but also bowling, jumping rope, archery, and other activities that engage kids”—aligns with the goals of the Director’s Champion for Health Award and the Michigan Fitness Foundation, which seek to honor those in Michigan who promote fitness and health for themselves and their communities.

Bain is as active in her personal life as she is in her career. She runs marathons and loves being active outdoors with her family. Bain’s husband Mark is a teacher at Haslett High School, and they have two daughters: Sierra is a junior at the University of Michigan, and Savanna is a senior at Haslett High School.

Even a family vacation at the beach becomes an active experience for Bain who is an avid sand artist and will spend hours, even days, working on elaborate, large-scale sand artwork. She shares this passion with her students as an example of how everyone has their “it!” that really gets them moving, and she encourages her students to find their own passion and keep working on “it”.

A sand sculpture completed by Casey Bain while on Spring Break with her
family in Florida.


Bain, said Trelstad, “is truly a "rock star" in education and East Lansing is fortunate to have her.”  Bain feels fortunate, as well, and said she can’t imagine ever teaching anywhere else. “I love this community,” she said of her East Lansing families. “I love my job. I love that I get to help people be active, happy, and healthy. In the early years, I was just happy to have a job. Now, I can’t imagine ever working somewhere else.”

For more information about Bain’s nomination for the Michigan Fitness Foundations Governor’s Fitness Awards, follow the “People’s Choice” link here: http://www.michiganfitness.org/gfa

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