Elementary-aged school children have a lot of energy to burn off, and it’s up to Dave Rucci to help them accomplish that. For 21 years, Rucci has helped kids from Kindergarten through fifth grade experience the joys of physical activity, exploring new sports and games, and learning how to compete and work as a team. “The thing I find most rewarding is the pure joy and excitement children at this age have in regards to coming to school and to then use that same joy and excitement in my teaching,” explained Rucci.
Energy is what kids bring every day to Harbor Heights Elementary School. While some students look most forward to P.E., others would rather spend more time in art, math or science. It’s Mr. Rucci’s job to encourage all kids to be active and find activities that are fun and keep children engaged.
Sports are often about celebrating who wins. We give championship parades to our professional teams who come home with championships and often criticize coaches, players and management for teams that come up short. Rucci recalls a time when his students taught him a lesson about winning.
“In my first year of teaching, there were a bunch of boys in my class who had won a championship in basketball. I was very proud of them and their accomplishment. I had them stand on the picnic table at school and we sang ‘They are the champions.’”
At the end of the day, a student who wasn’t on the winning basketball team asked why those students were honored like that. Mr. Rucci told the child it was “because they were winners,” and the child’s response was “but you always tell us that we are all winners.”
“He was right. I had not taken the time to celebrate every student and their accomplishments. From that point on we had weekly celebrations, some of which had nothing to do with academics. To outsiders they may have seemed frivolous, but to many of those students being celebrated was the highlight of their week, and truth be told ... they stood a little taller,” said Rucci.
It’s not always about winning and losing in Mr. Rucci’s classes, but the adversity and lessons learned by competing with and against others is something he hopes to instill in each of his students. “I tell them: Have integrity! Always try to do the right thing even when no one is looking! People do notice and people do care.”