Forsythe Middle School Athletic Director Delia Powel has been named Michigan Adapted Physical Education Teacher/Coach for the 2023-24 School year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators of Michigan.
She was nominated by her colleagues, parents, and students, according to Caryl Dazer, APE Specialist and APE SHAPE Board Member.
“Delia Powell was given this award because of her outstanding teaching and coaching for students with disabilities,” says Dazer. “Her students have commented that ‘she is the best teacher ever’ and she participates in unified sports with her students and gives them lots of community-based instruction, such as going fishing, snowshoeing, and ice skating.”
Powell was honored in Lansing on Nov. 2, at a ceremony featuring a slide show of her in action with her students at Forsythe and the Washtenaw ISD.
Delia Powell was born in Saginaw. Her family moved around a lot, including living in Houston for eight years while her father served in the United States Army. She made her way back to Michigan and the Saginaw area in the late 80’s. It was when her father obtained a job at Daimler Chrysler that she was able to spend all four years at Lincoln Park High School, the longest she’d ever been at one school consecutively. Her dad worked on the assembly line until he retired and her mother worked odd jobs in between taking care of the family.
After high school, Powell earned her associate’s degree at Henry Ford College before transferring to Eastern Michigan University where she received a Bachelor of Science with a major in physical education and a health education minor. Powell continued her studies at Wayne State University where she received a Master of Education with a major in kinesiology and an adapted physical education endorsement. She also became a nationally certified adapted physical educator (CAPE).
She started her career as a physical education teacher at Rudolf Steiner in Ann Arbor before providing adapted physical education (APE) services to students with disabilities in Wyandotte Public Schools. From there she obtained an APE position closer to home, at the Washtenaw Intermediate School district (WISD), where she serviced students at multiple locations in both Ann Arbor Public Schools and the WISD. When the WISD expanded its building space in 2021 and opened more classrooms at High Point School, she went on to only service students attending the WISD. However, she couldn’t leave her AAPS students completely behind, and so she became the co-curricular director of athletics and clubs at Forsythe Middle School in 2021.
Powell has lived in Whitmore Lake for the last 12 years with her husband, David Powell, and two children, David II, and Johanna, who attend Forsythe Middle School and Wines Elementary. Powell likes to stay busy with sports—either watching her kids play or watching her students compete. She also enjoys taking long road trips with the family while camping and exploring new and different areas. She enjoys keeping in shape while building relationships with others by participating in recreational team sports such as volleyball and softball.
How do you feel about being named the Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year for the 2023-24 school year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators of Michigan SHAPE-MI? I feel very honored to be named the adapted physical education teacher of the year by SHAPE-MI. To have been nominated and then to have my peers, families, and colleagues write letters of recommendation and provide stories of their experiences with me in the classroom, is such a humbling experience. When word got out that I’d been chosen, the amount of support that I was shown throughout the state was just extraordinary. I felt like so many people were celebrating with me and were genuinely so happy for me.
I also feel like I’ve been chosen to represent the APE profession and shine a light on the misconceptions of the field. For some reason, APE is really misunderstood by many in the state. It’s often listed as adaptive physical education instead of adapted. It’s referred to as a related service when it’s actually a federally mandated component of special education. APE is often thought of as a class (a place) instead of a service. It’s often left off of the individualized education plan (IEP) when it should only be provided if it’s on the IEP. I just hope I can shed some light on some of these issues.
Why did you pursue a career in adapted physical education?
When I was an undergraduate completing my student teaching, I learned that I did not have enough training in working with students with disabilities to be a confident teacher. I knew then that I wasn’t ready to take on my own classroom. That’s when I decided to get more training in physical education provided to students with disabilities.
How do you divide your time between WISD and Forsythe?
I divide my time at the WISD and Forsythe by staying focused on the WISD during the workday and leaving the Forsythe work for after-school hours and weekends. Parents are always shocked when I email or call them on a Saturday or Sunday evening. I like to stay busy, so it works for me.
Describe an average workday.
My average day starts at 8 a.m. at High Point. I have about an hour to set up the gym, help with bussing, answer emails, and work on the curriculum. Then I have eight back-to-back classes with a small break in between for lunch. The last 1.5 hours at High Point are used to help with busing and work on curriculum. Then I head over to Forsythe where I check in on the club advisors and coaches as they run their programs. The club advisors and coaches are very knowledgeable and run a tight ship. The students are very aware of the expectations and things, for the most part, just kind of start to become routine. When I first started, I took a lot of work home because I wanted to watch all the games and cheer on the team. Now I know better. I make myself go to the office to get the timesheets completed, the website updated, and emails sent out before I watch the games.
Why did you want to work for Ann Arbor Public Schools?
Ann Arbor Public Schools has a reputation for being a really great school district. Anyone would be lucky to obtain a position within the district.
What do you like about working at Forsythe specifically?
At Forsythe, I really feel like a valued member of the team. I have formed some great professional relationships and friendships with many of the staff. I feel like the administration is very supportive and down to earth. I also like that there is a diverse staff and student population. The students are great, have grit, and are really passionate about after-school activities.
What’s the happiest part of your day?
The happiest part of my day is when I see students smiling and having fun with each or with the staff, while also being responsible students.
Is there anything in particular you want to accomplish by the end of the school year?
By the end of the school year, I would like to have seen Forsythe participate in one Special Olympics competition. We have so many athletic opportunities for gen ed students and high-functioning students. I’d like to see athletic opportunities for students with severe disabilities be offered.
What do you want most for your students?
I want students to be good citizens, good friends, be honest, and show integrity.
What do you wish more people knew about adapted physical education?
I wish more people knew that:
- It’s adapted, not adaptive.
- It’s a service, not a class or a place.
- It’s special education, not an elective.
- It should be listed on the IEP.
- Every district should have a team of APE teachers—not just one or two.
- Students should be assessed before receiving any services.
- APE teachers should be part of the IEP team.
- APE services include intramural and lifetime sports, and more.
Your thoughts on the district’s focus this year on dignity, belonging, and well-being?
Considering the last five years, I like that the district is focusing on dignity, belonging, and well-being. We need to treat each other with dignity and respect, and just show kindness and receive kindness. For their social and emotional health, people need to feel like they belong, fit in, and are liked. Our well-being should be the focus. All too often we put ourselves last when we should put ourselves first by taking time for ourselves, and doing things that make us happy. We need to find that happy place again.