Clinical Professor Dolly Lambdin’s retirement from UT won’t curtail her leadership in children’s physical education and health.
The year Rocky won three academy awards, Jimmy Carter was elected president, and America celebrated its 200th birthday was also the year that saw clinical professor Lambdin venture from New York City to Austin, bringing her passion for physical education to the Kinesiology and Health Education Department in the College of Education. It was the beginning of a 40-year teaching career at UT.
Since 1976, says Lambdin, the school has shifted strongly toward a public health focus.
“I’m excited about the move toward preventative health in physical education,” says Lambdin, whose enthusiasm for her work only grew stronger over the years. “Our society focuses on health care, but our program is about helping people develop healthy lifestyles.
We are about physical education for all kids all the time.
This shift in the conceptualization, purpose, and teaching of physical education is one that Lambdin not only has been a part of at UT and in Texas K-12 schools, but also has helped lead across the nation.
A Unique Dual-Teaching Career
After Lambdin completed her master’s degree and taught in a New York City K-8 school, an opportunity opened up at UT Austin for her to instruct future physical education teachers. It was a chance she didn’t want to pass up, but she also wanted to continue teaching PE.
“Waneen Spirduso [then-chair of the KHE department] was an out-of-the-box thinker,” says Lambdin. So was the head of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Elementary School in Austin, and they agreed to allow Lambdin to teach in both locations, simultaneously.
With that, Lambdin became a teacher of elementary students who also taught teachers. “My dual career allowed me to be thoughtful about teaching teachers. Teaching at St. Andrew’s allowed me to see what worked and what didn’t,” she says.
Lambdin taught in both locations for a decade before leaving St. Andrews to focus on her growing family and to pursue her doctorate. By the mid-1990s, “I wanted to get back to the classroom and accepted a position at Blanton Elementary in Austin.”
At UT, Lambdin taught multiple courses across two departments—KHE and Curriculum and Instruction. Because she taught Intro to Teaching, Teaching Methods and the Student Teaching Seminar, she was able to develop a strong rapport with students and see them develop over time. “I supervised student teachers while I also taught,” she says, which gave her access to lots of new ideas and teaching innovations that she could share broadly. “I liken myself to a honeybee, finding these terrific ideas from each teacher and spreading them around like pollen.”
Of the 600 student teachers who’ve graduated from the UT program in the last 40 years, Lambdin has supervised a whopping 150 of them. Some have taught more than 30 years, but even if they averaged 5-year careers, she says, “that means since physical education teachers often teach 200-300 new students each year, more than a half million elementary students have been taught by teachers from our program.”
That also means that more than 100,000 have been influenced by teachers Dolly has personally taught and mentored. “Some of the teachers have gone on to become National Board Certified Teachers, Teacher of the Year for their school and state, and school district supervisors,” she says, proudly.
“These people are producing a healthier society, which is critical for a successful society. They are going to change the world.”
Leader in Physical Education Curriculum Development
Former president (2003-04) of National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and past president of the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America), Lambdin remains passionate about children’s physical health and education. Her unique perspective and career led her to be called on to help guide physical education curriculum and standards in Texas and beyond.
She was an original member of the committee that created the first curriculum framework for the state of Texas for physical education. The committee was tasked with writing Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for PE.
Her efforts helped launch new guidelines for PE, with a focus on children’s motor skills, fitness, and social skills. “Coordinated School Health, where physical education and health education concepts are integrated throughout the school—including the cafeteria and communication with parents, has became law in Texas and is spreading across the nation.”
In addition, Lambdin helped create a national seminal document that helps teachers “replace negative practices like having kids pick teams and putting them on the spot, and focusing more on empowering kids to take care of their bodies,” she says.
These guidelines are also highlighted in the relatively new Physical Education Teacher Education graduate program that involves faculty from Curriculum and Instruction and Kinesiology and Health Education.
KHE Chair John Bartholomew says, “I’m proud to have had a leader of her quality represent the department so well nationally while maintaining her work with undergraduates. Her impact has been impressive.”
Lambdin says of her future goals, “My own desire is to make physical education a kids’ movement, helping them to develop the skills, knowledge, confidence, and determination to live a healthy life.”
And it’s that desire that continues to drive her. After retiring from UT this winter, she intends to do more national work. “I really want the public to see the power and positive impact of physical education. I want to help showcase what great programs are doing so that people recognize their power and desire it for their kids,” she says. “Every child should be ‘turned on’ to physical activity and have the skills and knowledge to make healthy choices.”
-Photos by Christina S. Murrey