Herkimer College physical education instructor Amy Dommer recalled that it was the example of her own West Canada Valley Central School District teacher and coach Meg Cullinan that inspired her to pursue her career in education.
“She was a great coach and a great person,” Dommer recalled. “I just looked at her and decided that was what I wanted to do.”
Dommer was named Professional of the Year by the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Inc. (AHPERD), Central North Zone Chapter. The award is given to “an outstanding administrator or teacher who is recognized as an extraordinary leader and who has rendered outstanding service to the association and which is its profession”.
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The AHPERD Central North area includes members living and/or working in Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego counties. Dommer received the honor at the March 10 awards dinner, where she said she found the camaraderie of a close-knit group of friends and peers.
She said she particularly enjoyed seeing former students receive their own awards.
Dommer said she initially went to college for athletic training, but moved on to physical education. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science from Canisius College and joined Herkimer College in 2001. She worked in the fitness center for a year, but then took over from physical education instructor Tom Lapuma when he was away in the fall of 2002.
He retired in the fall of 2003, and Dommer has held that position ever since.
Improving technologies led to the need for many changes over the years – the changes Dommer admits are some of the best parts of the job.
“I like taking the program and modernizing it,” she said. “It’s really changed a lot over the years.”
And while she appreciated the award, Dommer admitted she was a bit taken aback by all the attention surrounding her.
“It’s a huge honor, but I’m not really into the recognition,” Dommer explained. “There’s been a lot of attention to this, but I’m really not that kind of person.”
Dommer was nominated by Marrick McDonald, CEO and owner of Upstate Aquatics in Newport, which promotes water health and safety with aqua and CPR classes, training and certifications in lifeguards and even lifeguards. children. McDonald said she wanted to recognize Dommer — a longtime friend she grew up with when they both attended West Canada Valley — not only for her work with students at Herkimer College, but also for her involvement in the community.
In addition to teaching at Herkimer College, Dommer’s work also includes offering certification for first aid, CPR and water lifeguarding, and she is also a water safety instructor. McDonald’s praised its commitment to water safety.
“Amy and I worked together for many years,” McDonald said. “Everything she does is professional. She’s just a great lady who really knows and loves what she does.”
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McDonald herself received the Bernard E. Hughes Award from the AHPERD. Other winners from the Centre-Nord zone include:
- Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year: Karyn Meaney of Lafayette Schools.
- Middle School PE Teacher of the Year: Lisa Upson of Central Valley Schools.
- High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year: Allison Teachout of the Auburn City School District.
- Health Education Teacher of the Year: Casey Langendorfer of Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District.
- Aquatic Teacher of the Year: Kristi Peterson of Utica City Schools.
- Technology Teacher of the Year: Reanna Zappavigna from Rome City Schools.
- Principal of Distinction: Corey Pike of Owen D Young Central School District.
- Cheri Stevens Service Award: Monica Wolfe of Cooperstown Central Schools.
- Bob Brown Award: Bruce Risley of Dolgeville Schools.
- Helen’s Heart Award: Kristie Morris.
- Coach of the Year: Courtney Roberts of Sauquoit Valley Schools.
- Exercise Science/Sports Medicine Professional of the Year: Rebecca DeMario of the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District.
Dommer offered his own advice to anyone considering physical education as a career. First of all, physical education is much more involved than just ‘gym’, she explained – it’s about developing communication skills and working with a team as much as staying in form and practice a sport.
“You have to really want to change someone for the better,” Dommer said. “You really have to get to know your students, not just in sport but in their day-to-day lives. It’s about helping them become good people.”
Mike Jaquays is the community reporter for the Mid-York Weekly. Email him at [email protected]