Award-winning teacher to depart from Camden-Rockport Elementary School
Rockport — Editor's note: The following retirement story was furnished to the Camden Herald by Carol Spinney and Jenifer Mason.
After more than four decades, Camden Rockport Elementary physical education teacher Gary Spinney, has announced his intentions to retire from public education.
Spinney is an award-winning teacher who is nationally, as well as locally, acclaimed in the field of physical education. He is leaving an expansive legacy. His resignation from MSAD 28 is effective at the end of the school year. In the two communities, Rockport and Camden, he has taught many third generation students.
Retirement party June 28
The Spinney family would like to invite past and present students, parents, community members, and school personnel to the Farmstead, 399 Commercial St., Rockport, Saturday, June 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. for a reception to wish Mr. Spinney well on his new adventure of retirement.
He is a well-known facet of the community and state. If you went to Rockport Elementary in the last 41 years he was your gym teacher. If you have raised a family in Camden or Rockport in the last 41 years, he probably taught your children and maybe even your grandchildren.
Spinney teaches health and physical education at Camden Rockport Elementary School. He also coaches the Camden Rockport Skippers Jump Rope Demonstration Team and the Morning /After School Physical Activity Program (all 41 years). The 68-year-old has coached a variety of sports at the high school, middle school levels and at the youth levels. At Camden Rockport High School, he has been a varsity head coach for wrestling at the club level. His passion is coaching soccer, although basketball is a close second, he said.
At the middle school level, Spinney has coached CRMS Girls’ Basketball teams to titles in 1975,’80,’81, ’82 and ’83 as the Schooners earned an .880 winning percentage during his 10 years. Spinney guided the CRMS boys’ soccer team to unparalleled success. He compiled an unbelievable 146-15-6 overall record (.907 winning percentage), including six undefeated Busline League championship seasons. He led the Schooner boys’ soccer team to undefeated championship seasons in 1983,’85, ‘87, ‘88,’90 and ‘91.
At the elementary school level he coached the all Girls “Whirling Windjammers Basketball Performance Team” from 1980 to 1997. He also coached the “Camden Rockport Skippers Jump Rope Team” for many years before the team became an American Heart Demonstration Team in 2011. The Jump Rope Team demonstrated at nine or 10 schools a year for three years. The Skippers will receive a “2014 Outstanding Demonstration Award,” at the annual fall Maine Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Conference in November.
Spinney has run the Jump Rope for Heart program at Camden-Rockport Elementary for 16 years. This spring the students at CRES raised $26,660.07 for the American Heart Association and during the past 16 years, they have raised a total of $357,539.26. Together, Spinney and his students have won many awards. Camden Rockport Elementary has been the top Jump Rope for Heart School in the state for the last 16 years, in the Top Five New England Schools, and in the Top 100 Schools in the United States.
He also runs a very popular before- and after-school physical activity program for CRES students, two days or more a week from October to May. A sample of activities includes: track & field, power tumbling, jump rope club, bowling, wrestling, aerobic games, floor ball, floor hockey, ball activities and soccer.
At the youth level, Spinney has helped create and coach many youth sports teams including soccer, basketball, power tumbling, youth wrestling and youth softball.
At the K-4 elementary school, Spinney has taught health and physical education. In 1973 he became the first physical education teacher at Rockport Elementary for grades K-6. He also was the middle school Athletic Director his first seven years in the area and created the grades 1-6 Intramural program. Spinney’s students put on many physical education demonstrations starting in the first year in the district. Recently each class put on a physical education demonstration at their open house requested by their classroom teachers.
Spinney says, ”Putting on physical education demonstrations is one way that I, as a physical education teacher, can advocate for my physical education program.”
Spinney and his wife Carol, a Rockport Elementary classroom teacher for 35 years, started teaching for MSAD 28 in 1973. Carol retired in 2007.
"It has been both a privilege and a blessing to teach for MSAD 28," Spinney said of his teaching career. "I have loved every minute of it. The students and parents have been magnificent to me. I have been fortunate to work with many excellent teachers. I have been living an awesome dream without any thread of a doubt.”
Spinney said retirement was a difficult decision to come to but he believes it is the right time for him to retire.
"I feel that it is the right time to take the next step and graduate from elementary school. I know I have raised the bar in the Physical Education and Health fields both locally and at the state level and that is a great feeling. I am leaving a great job that I love so much in a great place at a wonderful school," he said. “That was always my objective.”
Jim Morse, CRMS teacher says, “Camden Rockport Elementary has an outstanding physical education teacher and program. He will be greatly missed.”
Gail Richards, long-time Rockport Elementary and Camden Rockport Elementary educational technician says, “Mr. Spinney is so good for our kids! I want to thank him for all the hard work and dedication to health and education. Our kids have the best PE teacher in the world!”
Spinney has created nine games including Grand Haven, Jail Dodge Ball, Flowers and the Wind, Haystack and Rockport Bridges. Spinney won three National Blue Ribbon Awards, one for his Physical Education Demonstrations at CRES Open Houses, one for his Physical Education and Physical Activity Demonstration for Parents, and one for the “Sneaker Kick-off” (an innovation for introducing the instep in kicking and practice). All three Blue Ribbon Activities are aligned with the National Physical Education Standards with an assessment, and they meet the developmentally appropriate physical education practices for children.
Spinney has been on the Maine Association for Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance Executive Board since 1986 and has served on many different positions including Recreation Elect, Physical Education Elect, Web Master and State Coordinator for Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart for the past eight years. He was nominated to be President-elect a couple times but never felt he had time to fulfill that position.
Spinney has won more than 95 teaching and Jump Rope awards. The awards he received include six national and three New England awards. The awards also include, 1987 Maine Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the year, 1988 NASPE Eastern District Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year, and he received the 1988 National Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Runner-up. In 2006 Spinney received, the American Heart Association Northeast Affiliate Volunteer of the Year (New York) and was awarded a Jump Rope for Heart grant of $2,500. In 2008 he was honored as the National Outstanding Jump Rope for Heart Coordinator of the Year by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance in Fort Worth, Texas. Spinney is the first and only coordinator in Maine to have received this national award.
Spinney was awarded 2011 MAHPERD Outstanding Jump Rope for Heart Maine Coordinator of the Year, 2013 Camden-Rockport Elementary became Maine American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart School of the Year, and in 2013 he was awarded the CHRHS Homecoming Honorary Athletic Director/Coach.
Even after 42 years, it is evident that Spinney approaches his work with almost childlike enthusiasm. He describes his approach to teaching young children as one of making them feel "safe and successful, every time." His philosophy includes physical education classes that are "worthwhile, exciting, fun, and that meet the needs of individual students as well as the group."
In addition to teaching physical education to each child at the school for 30 minutes, twice a week, Spinney teaches health classes to third- and fourth-graders. He emphasizes the importance of healthy eating and physical activity 60 minutes a day for health: "You eat every day, you need to exercise every day." He doesn't believe in providing high-sugar snacks or in using food as a reward.
Spinney feels fortunate to teach in a school with very active families that support physical education and being healthy. In addition, he feels that younger children are naturally physically active and less self-conscious about moving. Spinney loves to work with and build upon that natural enthusiasm of children. He loves helping students become skillful and fit movers. He says that he is always excited about the gains his students accomplish over time.
Spinney’s life, however, was not always so easy. Spinney grew up at Opportunity Farm for Boys in New Gloucester. There he developed a strong work ethic and the desire to help others. He was up at 4:30 a.m. every day to do farm chores before school. Then he went back to the chores again at 4:30 in the afternoon. He also found time to participate in sports and other school activities. He spent 14 years at Opportunity Farm before being drafted into the military serving a year in Vietnam, and then on to college, eventually earning a master's degree in education. He did not reflect any feelings of regret while talking about his past. He is genuinely grateful for what he has been given in feels fortunate to have taught at the same school with his wife for 35 years. He taught both his daughters, Kristi and Jenifer, in physical education and was their Girl Scout Leader along with his wife Carol. He coached his daughters in soccer, basketball, softball, Jump Rope, and the Whirling Windjammers, a basketball demonstration team.
Spinney is very active outside of his job as well. He is a Registered Maine Guide since 1969. During the summers, he has worked as a Maine Guide guiding many age groups and families on various canoe and hiking adventures. He loves to hike, fish, canoe, camp, and travel with his wife and family.
Spinney likes to say: "Keep moving. The more you move, the more you can move, the more you want to move, until you're moving all the time!"
There is no question Spinney has been a “moving and doing” for the health of the children in our community for a long time. He was blessed with an abundance of energy.
Spinney wants to thank all of the wonderful staff, awesome students, parents, and community for all of the support they have given him during the 41 years of his career.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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