What it takes to be a PE Teacher: How to secure your position

by frank-stuart

“I love sport” she said, in response to the interview question “why do you want to be a PE teacher?” Do you really know what it takes to be a PE teacher?

Is it really all fun and games?

It certainly is fun, but it is not all about games! It is a privilege to have Health and PE (HPE) in our schools in Australia and we really don’t know any different. Yet, according to SPANS (2010), 20%- to-25% of Australian children are either overweight or obese (NSW Ministry of Health, 2011). In the USA, PE is still not a mandatory curriculum area in many states. First Lady Michelle Obama supports and promotes the Let’s Move campaign in the US in an effort to raise a healthier generation of kids. Locally, Australian Curriculum experts are working hard to ensure there is a comprehensive national Health and PE Curriculum that will allow teachers to work with parents in securing the health and future of the next generation.

I am certain you admired your PE teacher and had a great connection with them. They may have even inspired you to move into the profession. In all seriousness, on any given day, A ‘PE teacher’ is required to be an expert in the broadest of topic areas. This may include knowing the rules of every sports, even such sports as Ultimate Frisbee or intricate gymnastics skills, to understanding health policies and how to teach these to teenagers, implementing strategies to reduce obesity, raise awareness of social justice or avoid harm in risk taking, right through to imparting knowledge in regards to safe sexual practices. Aahhh… now take a breath. This certainly is diverse!

This essential curriculum area “…is uniquely positioned to provide opportunities for students to adopt lifelong healthy, active living. The knowledge, understanding and skills taught through Health and Physical Education provide a foundation for students to enhance their own and others’ health and wellbeing in ever-changing contexts” (ACARA, 2012, p.2). Are you ready for the challenge?

Broad knowledge

Did you know Health and PE is underpinned by Education studies, Curriculum studies, Exercise Science, Health and Movement studies? Each discipline area requires mastery of content, knowledge of the latest research and trends, and an application to the real world.

So are you really ready to be a master of so many interesting areas of study?

According to ACARA (2012), under your instruction as a Health and PE teacher, students will learn to become resilient, develop a strong sense of self, understand what a positive relationship is, decide what health and physical activity participation is best for them, and will develop health literacy competencies to enhance their own and others‘ health and wellbeing. Further, addressing issues such as personal transitions, safety, healthy eating, substance use, and mental and sexual health to ensure a healthy future for Australians (ACARA, 2012). Phew! Did you know it was really that broad? Along the way, I am sure you will apply this knowledge to your own personal and professional development and you will complete work placements to ensure you are ready for the challenge.

One other bonus is that you will meet lifelong friends and committed, expert Lecturers at ACPE to help you learn. The Student Services team will help to enhance your overall ACPE experience is enhanced.


Of course, a love of working with young people is needed. I am serious! You should really ‘love’ working with kids. Tremendous satisfaction should be derived from supporting students’ learning and knowledge. To get the best practice and experience before you step into a full time job, you should consider becoming a coach of a sporting team, work in an after-school care program, or gain valuable work experience as a volunteer in health promotion or community based health awareness programs. You could even help at fun runs; just get involved. It looks great on your CV!

Refine your skills

On the first day of study in my HPE degree, I remember completing a 15-minute run. We had to count how many laps we ran around an oval and the Lecturer recorded it. Some of my peers never returned after that first day. We couldn’t understand it! Was that really a hard challenge? Are we not required to be positive, healthy role models for our students? Are we not required to perform on a daily basis in front of our students? Was this too far removed from their expectations of undertaking a degree in HPE?

What extra skill development will you need to put in to ensure you can succeed in a highly integrated HPE program? I flipped and tumbled every semester for four years in gym, became graceful and creative in dance, jumped, ran and threw in every games and sport session, developed research skills, understood how to use and apply the syllabus in curriculum methods, learnt all about health promotion and policies, and knew how students developed and thought through educational psychology classes. I knew I needed to study hard so my grades would reflect this knowledge and skill.

What areas of study you will need master to succeed as a HPE teacher?

Look the part

When I was an undergraduate student, I was required to change clothes for my health classes when undertaking teaching placements. When I stepped into my classroom, I was there as a working professional to engage my students in the theoretical concepts of health and physical education. With highly diverse and integrated HPE lessons today, you may teach theory in a practical setting or vice versa. So comfortable, professional attire is still required and will always leave a lasting impression.

Go the extra mile

In a competitive industry, you need to ensure that you are doing that ‘little bit extra’ to get noticed. Stay fit, look the part, be a role model, get involved, gather as much experience, as you can, love what you are doing, and study hard. HPE graduates who receive early teaching placements are successful students who have done well academically (aim for good grades!), have achieved in their work placement program, are confident and know their discipline areas. While it all looks like fun and games, it is certainly a whole lot more. HPE – get involved!

Still interested in PE Teaching? Check out the PE Teaching courses offered by ACPE. They offer a diverse range of practical experience and geared towards providing you with skills in physical education, personal development, health and human movement.

Visit ACPE website >

By Angelee Boyd – Associate Dean (Student Services) at ACPE

Angelee commenced at ACPE in 2002 and in 2007 and was appointed Associate Dean (Student Services). She has held Course Convenor roles for the Bachelor of Education and the BHM (Sport) degrees and managed the Elite Athlete Program. Angelee is currently on leave in the USA with her family for 2012 and is still developing and leading online units for ACPE. She will graduate with her PhD in July 2012. 

For further research and reading, look at the following resources that have been referenced in this Blog.

ACARA. (2011). Australian curriculum, assessment and reporting authority. Phase 3 – The Australian curriculum: Health and Physical Education (HPE)

Hardy, L.L., King, L., Espinel, P., Cosgrove, C., Bauman, A. (2011). NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) 2010: Full Report. Sydney: NSW Ministry of Health.

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