Take the "A-Team"! by Gloria Kopshever
Have you ever ventured across College Avenue and walked through the Physical Education Department between the hours of 9 and 3, Mondays through Thursdays? You will be able to see a Marin County treasure -- CoM's A-Team: "A" as in "Adapted PE."
Instructors Jessica Naythons, Jeff Kamler and Homayoun Shivaie are a triple threat to physical disabilities because they personalize and individualize all class activities to the strengths of each student. By combining their extensive educations and experiences, they manage to help students of all ages and abilities.
While each instructor merits a spotlight of his own, it is in their success as a team that they are recognized as a vital part of the CoM community and of the County.
Spending a morning shadowing their classes helps one realize that this A-Team is a CoM asset in many ways. Among the three instructors there are at least 10 academic degrees and over 30 years of CoM experience. Watching each interact with students, one sees that their most apparent common talent is the ability to focus completely on the needs of the person with whom they are speaking or working.
Jeff Kamler did his undergraduate work at Stanford in biology, moving on the the UCSF Medical Center in Health Psychology.
"My passion was, and still is, in understanding how the body works, develops and responds to challenges on all levels, and copes with impairment and disability," says Jeff.
Just before doing his Ph.D. dissertation, he decided that he was not meant to be a research psychologist.
"I am a teacher, educator, coach/trainer and even a mentor," he says.
In addition to Jeff's years at CoM, he has experience as a swim coach, program director, camp director, and science field placement supervisor. He also finds time to be a competitive swimmer.
Jessica Naythons, with a BS in Social Welfare and an MS in Therapeutic Recreation, worked at group homes for handicapped young adults, directed Easter Seal programs, did Special Olympics coaching, planned adapted exercise programs for Marin hospitals, and worked with senior health projects.
"As a teenager working at Children's Hospital in L.A.," says Jessica, "I remember being amazed at the strength and resiliency of those with illnesses and disabilities. That experience made me want to make a difference in lives by hands-on involvement. Helping people on their road back to health or starting out on a healthy lifestyle program is so exciting that my students' progress and triumphs feel like my own."
Homi Shivaie is a native of Persia (Iran) who received his BA in Movement Education at Dominican College, with emphasis on assessment and evaluation. Before coming to CoM, he taught PE and coached soccer, and was responsible for designing programs to enhance self-image at the Development Movement laboratory at Dominican College. Homi also worked for the Easter Seal Society.
On the extracurricular level, he is an independent fitness trainer and nutrition consultant, and works in the field of competitive weight training (see story, "Instructor wins world championship").
When asked how he sustains the energy and enthusiasm which he brings to the classes, Homi responds: "When I walk into a classroom, I get energy from seeing attitudes that can be changed or improved by achieving goals my students thought were beyond their abilities."
In addition to teaching 12 sections of seven courses, from Adapted Aquatics to Yoga, the A-Team finds time to mentor many CoM students working or volunteering in the program who are considering related careers, AND they organize great parties and picnics at the end of each semester for all involved in the Rehabilitation Fitness Program.
(reprinted from the newsletter of College of Marin's Emeritus College).