A Canyon Country teacher was recognized Thursday afternoon by the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports.
George Velarde, a Physical Education teacher at Sierra Vista Junior High School, was honored as the statewide winner in the 2009 Spotlight Awards.
The Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Chairman Jake Steinfeld, creator of "Body by Jake," presented Velarde with a gold medal for Teacher of the Year and a check for $10,000.
"His attitude and his fire for physical education, and the kids, rubs off on you," said Mark Crawford, Sierra Vista Junior High Principal. "He's incredible to have and more importantly he's incredible for our kids."
Velarde has championed the fitness department at Sierra Vista, helping to develop a state-of-the-art Fitness Center, as well as change the physical fitness goals of the school.
The PE department at Sierra Vista now follows a schedule that places more focus on developing the fitness of its students rather than on sports activities.
"Its been a team effort, and that makes us proud of where we are at," said Velarde. "Our fitness scores are one of the tops in the district, and one of the tops in California."
Over the last five years, Sierra Vista students' scoring in the Healthy Fitness Zone of the State Physical Fitness test has increased more than 36 percent, moving from 23 percent qualifying in the Healthy Fitness Zone to nearly 60 percent.
In the same amount of time the schools academics have increased as well, moving from an academic performance index of 746 to its current score of 830.
The Healthy Fitness Zone tests students on a series of runs, stretches, pull-ups, push-ups, and body fat composition to determine their level of fitness.
Governor Schwarzenegger joined with California sports legends to launch the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports Council in 2005 with a goal of making California a "Fitness State."