Warner’s Teacher of the Year for 2015, Best is the ideal role model for her students. A three-sport athlete at Boyle County High, she was MVP of the softball and volleyball teams and played on the basketball team.
Unlike some high school stars who stop exercising well once their playing days are over, Best is an avid runner, covering 12 miles a week. Along with numerous 5k and 10k races, she has also completed two half-marathons.
So when Best talks to her students about the importance of proper nutrition and lifelong physical activity, she speaks from experience.
For 12 years as Warner’s P.E. teacher, she has engaged her students – and staff and faculty – in fun movement activities.
She leads the Girls on the Run program at school and launched the popular Turkey Trot, a day of walking right before Thanksgiving.
Each grade level comes to the gym as a group to walk, joined by parents, staff and teachers. In November, Jessamine County Schools Superintendent Kathy Fields walked side by side with students.
Best handed out prizes and gave children little plastic turkeys to tie on their shoelaces.
“The kids loved it,” she said. “The whole idea is to get kids to realize that movement for their whole life is important.”
That is especially true in Kentucky, which ranks on the wrong end of childhood obesity numbers.
Best sees encouraging signs of progress among students. “Slowly but surely, people are getting on board,” she said. “I don’t want to tell people what to do, but our kids have to learn to make good choices.”
Best helped with that when she staged a health fair in the spring of this year. With a grant from McDonald’s, she enlisted UK Hospital, Central Baptist and volunteers as community partners.
Students exercised with Wii games, visited a germ table, learned about food groups, tasted the difference between raw and cooked vegetables, saw how much sugar soft drinks and candy bars contain – concepts that not all of her students learn at home.
It’s an uphill battle, but Best is accustomed to underdog causes. After all, she is a UK football season ticket-holder and hasn’t missed a home game since 1998.
If anyone can stay the course, it’s Emily Best.