An award-winning high school coach and teacher has been recognized yet again for his contributions to Anne Arundel County and to lifelong fitness.
Last week, school system officials named Chesapeake High School physical education teacher Walter R. "Skip" Lee III the school district's Teacher of the Year for 2005.
"It's an affirmation that what we're doing in the gym really matters and [that] it's valued," he said.
Lee, who serves as the head track and field coach, received the honor for his work developing the "Fitness for Life" course now offered at all county high schools.
The Anne Arundel County native was named Secondary Teacher of the Year this year by the Maryland Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
"He's just one of those guys who's got so much energy I can't believe it," said Chesapeake Principal Harry Calender, who nominated Lee for the honor.
The administrator recalled that Lee, when taking over a health class, changed into a suit from his gym-class gear to remind the students to take the course seriously.
Lee graduated from Old Mill High School and attended the University of Maryland, where he majored in physical education.
He said he spent 15 years in the school system, starting out with several part-time teaching positions. Lee has taught at Chesapeake High for the past seven years.
Lee began developing the "Fitness for Life" course there in 1999. It moves the focus from team sports activities to individual performance and skills improvement, the teacher said.
Lee said that regardless of what students do in science or other classes, "We have to be able to walk to those classes every day."
Students have responded with greater interest in physical education. All but 48 Chesapeake seniors had earned more than the basic requirement of one credit by the time they graduated last year, Lee said.
He said he was inspired by his mother, a registered nurse who continued to work for more than 20 years after contracting a muscular degenerative disease. She died in November.
"The model that I had to follow in my home was `Give to others,'" Lee said. "That's what I grew up wanting to do."
At Old Mill, Lee's track coach, Ron Evans, also influenced his ambitions.
Lee has spent 24 summers working for the Ocean City Beach Patrol and considers himself lucky to have found a career that accommodates it.
A 40-year-old Pasadena resident, Lee lives with his wife and three sons, ages 11, 10 and 7. He is a deacon for Severn Baptist Church and also coaches football, basketball and lacrosse for his sons' teams.
"The most profound effect that anyone can have is to be involved with youth and steer them and help them make good decisions young," Lee said.