What do deadlifts, squats, and burpees have to do with building competence in the classroom?
A lot, according Beau Morimando, who teaches Special Education and English Language Arts at the Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“Through practice and training, just as an athlete would train for a competition, a teacher needs to train for the classroom,” says Beau. “I’m always trying new things at the gym in the same way that I’m trying new things as an educator.”
The seventh grade teacher, who played soccer and studied history, English, and special education at Lesley, was motivated to start CrossFit after graduation. Feeling the void of college soccer, he decided he wanted a new way to compete. A teammate introduced him to the sport, and the rest is history.
Now, after years of training, Beau is continuing to push himself to new levels of sportsmanship. With the help of his coach in Brookline, Massachusetts, he’s building the skills to compete in the CrossFit Open—a global competition that pits CrossFitters from around the world against each other in tests of strength, endurance, and agility.
Much like in education, CrossFit is a sport that demands above average passion and commitment. After a full day teaching and planning and at school, Beau heads to the gym for an evening of Olympic lifting, endurance training, and gymnastics. It’s a five-day-a-week routine, without breaks. Exhausting? Sure. But for Beau, it’s all about the challenge.
“I’m constantly challenging myself to get better,” says Beau. “And I challenge my students because I know that in order to see progress, they need to learn how to overcome mistakes and fix their own errors along the way.”
Helping others to grow and succeed, whether in education or in athletics, has been top of mind for Beau from a young age. He was motivated first by his mother, an emergency nurse who he witnessed changing lives day after day, and second, through his experiences playing and coaching soccer. “I found that since I was blessed with all of these physical and cognitive gifts,” says Beau, “That it was my duty to help others achieve the success that I was lucky enough to have.”
These early lessons shaped him as a special educator and instilled in him a deep commitment to social change. “A lot of my students deal with things outside of school that make it really difficult for them to be engaged in schoolwork,” says Beau. “I like to think that I give my students the tools to change their own lives. I believe that teachers like me can take small steps toward closing the achievement gap by ensuring that our students gain the strategies to find success for themselves.”
Whether he’s leading fellow educators in learning about progressive approaches in the classroom, finding ways to encourage his students to make mistakes without fear, or breaking his own PRs in the gym—it’s clear that Beau isn’t one to back down from an obstacle, no matter how big or small.
“I keep going because I know this work is never complete,” says Beau. “My students demand the best out of me, so in return I can demand the best out of them.”