Riverview School District

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Cedarcrest Teacher Peggy Filer Challenges Riverview Students and Staff to be Healthier

By Michael Ward

Sometimes the best ideas catch you completely out of nowhere. In the case of Cedarcrest Health teacher Peggy Filer, a student's vision and determination to make changes in her life, and to inspire others to do the same, became something much, much more.

In October 2008, Stephanie Montgomery, a Cedarcrest High School student in Ms. Filer's Advanced Health class, conceived an idea which has now grown into a semi-annual district-wide initiative known as The Healthy Challenge. Montgomery wanted to see if her classmates and her fellow Cedarcrest students could find ways to live a healthier lifestyle. The idea took off at the classroom-level and after seeing that interest develop, Ms. Filer noticed students outside of her health class taking part. In May 2009, the idea became something Filer promoted district-wide and now, in October and May of each school year, The Healthy Challenge is issued.

Approximately one month in duration, there are very few parameters to the Challenge. For some students, the Challenge means eating healthier, exercising more, and getting more sleep. Other students work on paying forward good deeds or offering compliments every day, reducing television and computer time, or finding ways to eliminate unnecessary stress and anxiety. While the more traditional health-based changes are often targeted, a move towards improving mental health and wellness and emotional stability has been an area of greater importance with those taking the Challenge over the years.

Ms. Filer's students are required to take part, as the students must check in every Monday during the month-long program. With regards to Riverview staff around the District, a reminder is sent out midway through, offering motivation, an open door to share how the program is working and a reminder when the program is concluding. "Sometimes I hear from people and sometimes I don't," she says.

The response Filer has received off-cycle has proven that people are indeed taking part, no matter the age and no matter the need. She provides tips on how to set goals for the Healthy Challenge, incorporating the SMART format of goal-setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely. "If a goal is too difficult, people quickly give up in frustration," Filer indicates. To that extent, she cautions against her students using weight loss or weight gain as a goal, but to instead focus on healthier eating and exercise. Students respond oftentimes by eliminating soda or sugary drinks from their diet and increasing their eating of fruits and vegetables.

Whether adults or students are paying forward compliments or encouraging others to find something they wish to improve on in their lives, the Healthy Challenge brings people together and serves as a gentle motivator to change something in their lives for the better. And best of all for Peggy Filer, the idea came from a student, whose vision serves as perhaps the greatest motivation of all.