Monday, April 29, 2019

Honolulu resource teacher demonstrates the power of physical fitness

Denise Darval-Chang teaches by example to inspire students of all ages

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Denise Darval-Chang doesn’t hesitate when she says, “I have the best job in the world.”

As a Honolulu District health and PE resource teacher, she measures students’ physical fitness and educates them on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

At McKinley High School’s gymnasium, her dedicated team of teachers and volunteers recently led 470 complex-area fifth-graders through a series of exercises to test their upper-body and abdominal strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility and body composition. There was also a CPR station to demonstrate lifesaving techniques.

“They will test and get their post results and compare that with their pre-test scores that they did in the fall,” Darval-Chang explained. “When I go back into their classrooms, I’ll give them some guidance on how to achieve (a healthy body weight) through regular physical activity and mindful nutrition.

“At 5th grade, I feel they’re mature enough to understand the concepts that we’re testing, understand the impact on the body’s system, which are all hidden by our skin, so often we take them for granted,” she said. “The more they understand the workings of the inside, the better they’ll perform academically, live a life of wellness. (There are) so many huge benefits.”

Darval-Chang has been a health and PE teacher for more than three decades, and transferred to the district office 16 years ago. She's been organizing fitness meets for the past seven years.

“I was kind of coerced into it, like ‘You said you would do it when the job opened,’ and so I just followed through with it and I couldn’t be happier, because I’m working with admin, I’m working with K-12 students and then our resource teacher team, which is just awesome, so it couldn’t be a better fit,” she said. “There’s office work. There’s meetings. There’s planning for events. Like we have an upcoming state conference on Friday, so that’ll be all the health and PE teachers in the state are invited to attend, so it’s just different deliverables.”

Corralling hundreds of students doesn’t faze Darval-Chang, who leads more than 400 paddlers as head coach of Hui Nalu O Hawaii canoe club. Some of her members even volunteered their services at Tuesday’s fitness meet.

“It definitely takes a village and we are the role models,” Darval-Chang said. “There are age groups up to 70 years old here at the club, and a lot of them don’t mind coming out to help, so that’s cool. I hope they feel like they helped somebody at those meets.”

Darval-Chang also coaches the women’s 50–55 division. On a breezy Wednesday evening, she ran her crew through starts and finishes along Maunalua Bay to prepare for the summer’s sprint regatta races.

“It’s just a lifestyle. Being in the ocean is so therapeutic. It’s what we do as a family. Our entire family embraces the ocean,” she said.

Paddling has been Darval-Chang’s passion since she was 12 years old. Much like physical fitness, it will be a lesson she'll continue to share for years to come.

“Physical activity has been a part of my life forever, and I was just fortunate that there’s a career that embraces physical activity, and I love my job so I get to teach people how to work out, whether they’re young at the school level or 50, 55s here at the Hui Nalu Canoe Club,” she said.