Todd Keenhold Celebrates 34 Years Teaching Health and Respect
Todd Keenhold recognized for service to area youth
When Todd Keenhold arrived in Randolph as a brand new physical education instructor – 34 years ago – he underwent some significant culture shock.
“I had just spent the last four years working and studying in Ithaca, New York, a very lively college town,” he said laughing. “Let’s just say Randolph was a considerably different community.”
Fortunately for decades of area young people, Keenhold found his way. And since those early days, he has made significant contributions to students and families in the Randolph, Braintree, and Brookfield communities. “I bought a little school house in 1985,” he said, “and maintained a long distance relationship with my partner, Beth, until she graduated from college. She moved here soon afterwards, we got married, and we raised our family here.” And for the entire time he has been here, he has facilitated physical education courses for the community’s youth.
“For the past 34 years, Todd organized and led the annual Run for Health race,” notd Deb Lary, a high school teacher and longtime colleague. “Because of him, my daughter’s interest in running began at the age of five and her passion for it turned into a scholarship at Norwich University.”
Keenhold is also an avid swimmer and swimming coach.
“Both of my children participated in Todd’s swim team, the Randolphins,” Lary said, “and they have beautiful form now because of him. When my daughter was in sixth grade one of her classmate’s home burned to the ground and she arranged with Todd to support her with a swimming fundraiser. My children are only two examples of the hundreds of kids in whom Todd has helped form an interest in good health practices and it would be impossible to count the number of children, co-workers and community members who have benefited from his work.”
Randolph Elementary School teacher Julie Hinman had similar praise. “Todd shares his love of swimming and skiing with the entire community,” she said, “and has led a number of wellness events over the years. During one of his swimming events I learned how to make my stroke more efficient. He has led outdoor snowshoeing and skiing events at his home and he stays with the beginners to help them feel comfortable. He has also facilitated adult dodge ball events through Bethel University, creating a great mix of socializing and activity.”
“Todd also is known for teaching fairness and respectful behavior during games,” Hinman said. “It’s so helpful and important. We make use of his rules when we’re on the playground during recess and when we get stuck, we ask students ‘What would Mr. Keenhold do?’ so that we can follow his lead.”
Because of some recent revisions to scheduling and licensure requirements, Keenhold is now teaching physical education in four of the district’s schools, including the high school (brand new for him). “I’ve created a program called Individualized Learning Opportunities,” he said. “If a student prefers to engage in a specific physical activity rather than attend the regular physical education classes, they may do so over a 16 week period of time provided they also read and summarize eight research articles about physical fitness and create their own wellness plans. It’s been an interesting transition spending some time here at the high school,” he said, chuckling. “I mean, I pretty much know all these kids. When they’re five, all they want to do is run like crazy and do everything you say. When they’re fifteen…well…not so much! But it’s been fun.”
Keenhold also provides alternatives for students who are not comfortable with specific parts of the required physical education courses. “If a student doesn’t want to participate in basketball, for example, he or she may use the weights and fitness equipment during the class. I am never going to make students do something they aren’t comfortable with,” Keenhold said. “My grading system is based on a willingness to try and a consistent demonstration of being respectful.”
A Brief Setback
Despite his love of activity and physical wellness, in 2010 Keenhold began experiencing some significant pain. “I really felt crippled,” he said. “My hips had become so arthritic that it became more and more difficult to move. I really didn’t want to go through a hip replacement because I felt I was just too young.” Instead, he opted for a surgical procedure wherein they scraped the arthritis out of his pelvis. “Not the most pleasant thing I’ve ever experienced,” he said, “but since then I have had much more mobility, I have lost weight, and I now spend several days a week swimming 3000 yards at the end of the school day.”
And as for the future? As a member and consultant for the International Society of Physical Education of Young Children, Keenhold has been invited to present his thoughts and ideas on best practices for teaching physical education to young children in China next year – something he is currently writing a book about with Dr. Kira Maehashi, a professor in the Department of Health Science and Social Welfare at Waseda University in Japan. He led a similar program for Japanese teachers in Japan back in 1995. “Physical education programs are still fairly new and in development in many Asian countries,” he said, “and it’s exciting to be able to share my thoughts and expertise on health and wellness with such a wide range of people.”
And when he’s not in the gym (or pool, or on snowshoes, or skis)? You might find him at one of any number of nightspots around Vermont playing guitar and covering for The Grateful Dead or Bob Dylan. “I’m out there on stage about 100 times a year,” he said. “Hey, you’ve got to keep it interesting.”