By Abigail Lyss ‘18 (interviewed by Leila Small ‘18)
Rick Munn, the physical education and athletics director, joined the high school staff team this year although he has worked in the Heschel Lower and Middle Schools for twenty years.
Rick wasted no time in embarking on his mission to improve high school health, instating the highly controversial fitness test, which tracks students’ athletic and physical ability throughout the year with exercises like the pacer test. He has also instituted a stricter waiver policy, which requires all students, even those excused from gym, to stay on top of their health through participation in the fitness tests and weekly communication with Rick and Jezel. While the High School program had previously been similar to the Middle School’s in terms of choosing sport, Rick has shifted the focus to creating healthy exercise habits. Rick takes the “education” component of his job very seriously, emphasizing the importance of nutrition and taking care of one’s body.
Rick believes that there is no way to implement a totally healthy workout routine in the 50-minute periods allotted for gym class. Instead, he hopes to teach students to take responsibility for their own fitness, basic physiology and important nutrition information. Rick himself maintains a very strict workout regimen, running five to six times a week.
Rick has lived in New York, Spain, and Germany. He especially loved the German cities Munich and Salzburg; he thought them especially beautiful. He got to know Germany well when he spent a year abroad during college. Throughout his childhood, Rick loved playing soccer with his brothers and cousins and was trained by his uncle who was a professional soccer player in Spain; this uncle inspired him to pursue a career in physical education.
Rick got a BA in history at University of Maryland and MA in philosophy at Fordham University, which he attributes to the fact that he comes from a big “philosophy, history and sports family” – his older brother is currently an associate dean at the University of South Carolina Honors College, and his younger brother is an athletics director.
Near the end of his graduate school career, Rick began to teach others, working at a children’s athletic training school on the Upper West Side because it was conveniently located close to Fordham. He used his uncle’s techniques in training the students, which he described as “demanding and tough, but very funny.” He had such a natural facility for his job that after a few months, he was promoted to director of the program. In 1997, he began work at Heschel as a Lower School gym teacher. When describing the Physical Education program in the lower school, Rick noted that the teachers choose all the sports, and classes play each sport for about three weeks. On the other hand, in middle school, the students take more initiative and choose their own sports. He is excited to work with older and more mature students after years of nursery school students, hoping to create a competitive but fun environment in the gym.
Although Rick is still working in all three school divisions, as the year progresses and things settle down, he expects to “reassess” and will likely continue work in only one or two of the schools.