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The Talon

The Talon

P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E.

A class for everyone
Grace Risk
It is parachute day in P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. class. Students who want to make a difference, make new and true friends, or to try a different physical education credit can take P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. and/or join Circle of Friends. The next Circle of Friends event will be kickball from 4-5 p.m. at Miracle League Park in Ankney

Would you enjoy high school as much if it used an elementary-style schedule? One classroom, one teacher, and the same handful of students every day, all day. Would you miss the walks to class with friends or the six other teachers you usually see?

Throughout the halls of Ankeny High School (AHS), you will find a few classrooms set up with a similar schedule. Inside these rooms the bustling sounds of laughter and hard work fill the space. With a student population of over a thousand student, AHS hosts a large variety of learners.

Individualized education plans (IEP) are used for students who may need some additional educational supports. Each plan comes equipped a plan to help students reach educational goals. And behind each IEP, one will find a kind and charismatic student that not everyone has a chance to meet. 

P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. gives them [students with an IEP] a tie to general education students and to the school that they would not have otherwise,” AHS P.E. teacher Ashley McCoy said.

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Without a traditional class schedule, many of these students only know AHS by their one classroom. They rarely get to have the typical high school experience with the exception of fifth period P.E.

“I know they love P.E. because it gives them a sense of normalcy and gives them a break from their usual classroom,” AHS senior Ava Sammons said.

P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. (Physical Education Opportunity Provided for Exceptional Learners) is a class available to every student at AHS during fifth period and led by McCoy.

“[It is] an inclusive environment made up of kids who have IEP’s and general education peer helpers who get to do a completely unique curriculum for their P.E. credit,” McCoy said.

Students meet in front of the gymnasium doors where they find their partner and can be seen talking, joking, laughing, and getting closer to everyone in class. When McCoy shows up, she lets the class know where they are going for the day. Sometimes it is an obstacle course in the main gym, other days it is hockey or mini golf in the small gym, and on Wednesdays the class moves upstairs so the students in wheelchairs can get out of their seats and lay on the padded wrestling room floor.

 “It is less like a class and more like a really close group of friends and family,” McCoy said.

Many of us do not realize the privilege of moving to different classrooms and seeing new students. With this P.E. class, it provides students with a genuine high school experience. 

Members of the P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E class pose with the Grinch during the holiday season. (Ashley McCoy)














Along with McCoy and her passion for the class the peer helpers are also to thank for creating such an inclusive, welcoming environment.

Senior Jenna Kirby has taken P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. for the past five years.

“I wanted to be able to help people and be in an activity where I am having fun but also doing something for other people,” Kirby said. “That is why I started it, but ever since the first year I have never wanted to stop.” 

The general education peer helpers care deeply about these student and know how important this class is for them.

“Sometimes I see them outside of P.E. and they are moping and not really wanting to be there, but in here it is some of the only times I see them actually smile and laugh,” Kirby said.

When you join P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. as a peer helper you are required to attend two Circle of Friends events per semester. Circle of Friends is a club that anyone can join regardless of what P.E. class students take. 

Students pose at the Iowa Wild hockey game for the Circle of Friends event. (Ashley McCoy)














Circle of Friends is a way to give students with IEPs a fun experience outside of  the academic environment. McCoy has organized pajama parties in the lunchroom, a trip to the zoo, an afternoon at the Science Center, to name a few. Sometimes even students that have already graduated attend these events because they will always be a part of the community of Circle of Friends.

“Everybody needs friends and this is the place where we foster friendships in a safe environment,” McCoy said.

McCoy offers a myriad of opportunities to make a big impact in a small way through P.E.O.P.E.L. P.E. and Circle of Friends. Whether a peer helper, a student with an IEP, or even an associate, both offer an experience that cannot be found elsewhere.

“We just make it fun. We can be silly and goofy and also have serious conversations,” McCoy said. “All around it’s just a unique experience that I don’t see any other place in the building.” 

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About the Contributor
Grace Risk
Grace Risk, Staff Reporter
Grace Risk is a senior at Ankeny High School. She enjoyed being on the marketing team for The Talon in her sophomore year. Grace is also involved in Circle of Friends and hopes more people will join in the following years. She plans to study Social Work and Spanish at Colorado State University. One fun fact about Grace is that her favorite pastime is sitting in her backyard with her two dogs.
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