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PE teacher breaks world records to help keep kids active | Education

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PE teacher breaks world records to help keep kids active

DECATUR, Ga. -- A DeKalb County health and physical education teacher is not only helping to fight Georgia's high childhood obesity rate, he's devoted his life to raising money for the equipment keep kids active.

Dr. James P. O'Donnell has spent nearly 35 years making sure kids at Henderson Mill Elementary get more than two-and-half hours of physical activity a week.

O'Donnell has fought against all efforts to cut back on P.E. hours in school because he wants kids to learn early the importance of staying active.

He pushes them.

"Come on. Bring it in.  (I'm) not giving up on you," he said to the last of the second grade students running laps at the start of P.E. class.

O'Donnell, or OD as he's known, has kept kids moving and hearts pumping at Henderson Mill for more than 30 years.

"They need to know that's it's valuable to be educated and healthy," he said.

"Dr. OD exemplifies everything that is good in our public education system," said Elaine Mach, a former co-worker and current teacher at Dunwoody Elementary School.

"Over the years, Dr. OD also has raised tens of thousands of dollars to improve the athletic facilities available to his students. He paid for a track, upgrades to the gym, and gym equipment," Mach said.

He's broke the Guinness Book of World Records for lots of things," said Alija Djumisic, a co-worker. "For most free throws in 10 minutes. In 2008, he again, broke the Guinness World Record for one hour, three-point shots."

"He helped organize and played in the longest basketball game, he helped Henderson Mill enter the records books by organizing the largest number of students dribbling a basketball for the longest amount time. He also played tennis for 36 straight hours trying to set the record for the longest tennis match on record. By doing all of these things he shows his students by example to set your goal high and work hard to achieve them," Mach said.

With the money, he's helped continue to keep the school's athletic programs strong.

"We built another (basketball) court down there," O'Donnell said. "Two more courts over there." He points to another area of the school grounds.

He knows he's changing attitudes and helping fight childhood obesity.

"He's the best P.E. teacher in DeKalb County. He's amazing. Everyone loves him because he does great job," Djumisic said. "He does everything for kids."

"This man has touched thousands of lives through his spirit, hard work, and love of what he does. He is a wonderful example for us all and deserves to be recognized for his contribution to education," said Mach. That is why she nominated him for 11Alive's Class Act Award.