Interview with Todd Willoughby, teacher at Portage Academy, in Elora
A combination of circumstances led Todd Willoughby to Portage Ontario, six years ago. Today, the Phys Ed teacher wouldn’t leave his job for anything in the world!
After a decade teaching in a regular high school, Todd decided to pursue his career at Portage Academy. At first, his only goal was to be closer to home! But the experienced teacher quickly realized that the shorter drive to Portage was only one of the many benefits of working there. This school had much to offer, including the beautiful scenery in Elora.
“Young people are much more motivated to learn here, says Todd. Each class is an opportunity for the students to release their energy and tension.” Every weekday, Todd teaches 75 minutes of physical activity to his three groups. The class is very popular with teenagers. “They like to move and are often in need of physical activity for their well-being . They started to ask about fitness activities and it has become a big part of our program. Each student here receives more fitness sessions than a regular high school student would. That way, they learn healthy habits that they can carry out once they’ve completed their program at Portage.”
The results of this daily activity are also visible and noticeably motivate students to persevere in their educational program. “The physical changes to these students, over their time at Portage, are radical, Todd says. Most of the teenagers gain muscle mass, confidence and strength. ”
At Portage Academy, due to the small number of students, individual or small group sports such as 3 on 3 basketball, 2 on 2 volleyball and badminton are preferred to sports where more players are needed, such as hockey or football. Todd also likes to introduce diversity in his teaching, adding sports such as archery and mountain biking. He also brings the teens out whenever he can to get some fresh air.
As it is with all other Portage centres, teamwork is important at Elora. The day before our interview, Todd planned a bike ride for an entire afternoon. He collaborated with other teachers to allow students who took part in the trip to make up the classes they had missed at another time. “We work together for the well-being of our youth, and those teens give it back very well. This job is very rewarding, and I recommend it to any and all teachers.”