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Beloved health and aerobics teacher Maria Assante can often be seen strutting through the halls of Townsend Harris in her latest running shoes. Known to most as a teacher, senior advisor, and confidant, many students are unaware of her athletic past.
Raised in Park Slope, Ms. Assante attended Midwood High School where she took part in several extracurricular activities. She participated in gymnastics and volleyball.
As a gymnast, Ms. Assante took a more expressive approach, staying along the lines of rhythmic dance. To her, it was not about the awards and the glory, but about the joy she gained from it. Likewise, volleyball was about the fun and health benefits.
As physical educator, Ms. Assante not only advocates the idea that “a sound body is a healthy mind,” but also that there should be a balance between sports and education. To her, being an inactive genius destroys your body and being a mindless jock destroys your mind.
“You can be the smartest guy in the world, but if your body is falling apart, what good is all that intelligence?” she said.
Even her dedication to making students develop a love for physical activity can be directly linked to her love of sports. Rather than pressuring students to take part in any particular activity, she tells them that she “doesn’t really care what kind of activity they do,” as long as they remain active. To the people who convince themselves they just aren’t sports-inclined, she says, “There’s a sport for everyone; you just need to find your sport.” In order to do this, she strongly supports developing an interest at a young age because it is more likely you will remain active throughout your entire life.
“I stress the importance of sports so that they may remain healthy for their lifetime,” she added.
Many people use the excuse that they do not have time to exercise, but Ms. Assante makes time. She explained that it is hard to find time for herself because she has to work with her own children and their responsibilities.
However, she finds a way to incorporate exercise into her day and remain active: “School keeps me on my feet a lot, walking throughout the building and teaching my aerobics classes. Walking is my favorite everyday activity. It’s a workout that anyone can do. It’s free and requires no special skill set, just a good pair of sneakers.”
Keeping herself active is not the only part of Ms. Assante’s health conscious lifestyle. She also makes sure she always goes for her annual physical. She said, “I see all the doctors that must be seen each year to make sure all is well.”
To this day Ms. Assante surrounds herself with sports and a healthy lifestyle. She is the coach of the girls bowling team and has a great passion for the sport.
“Many people think it’s not really a sport, but there is skill involved. I find my greatest reward when coaching,” she stated.
Improvement is also a big part of exercising. The more you keep active, the more naturally it will come to you. Soon the activity you struggled so much to take part in and complained about could become part of your routine. Ms. Assante explained this idea, using her bowling team as an example.
“I love watching girls who’ve started with a very low game gradually work their way up to a respectable game. Some freshmen show such great improvement, that I think they surprise themselves.”