When physical education teacher Sandy Hudson retires from Downes Elementary School this year, she’ll have completed a cycle that began when she was a little girl, living down the street from the school and attending classes there.
Hudson, 60, has worked at Downes for 11 out of her 32 years in the Christina School District, after serving at Kirk Middle School for about 20 years as a health and P.E. teacher.
This summer, she’ll be heading to Albuquerque, N.M., for the Senior Olympics, where she’ll be competing in women’s three-on-three basketball.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “There’s going to be over 13,000 seniors there. It starts from age 50 and goes on up in the hundreds.”
She explained that after she graduated from the University of Delaware, where she played basketball for four years, she has continued playing in recreation leagues for basketball, softball and flag football.
“I love being active,” she said, joking, “In my mind, I’m like 25 but you know, my body isn’t there. But I’m saying, ‘C’mon, I’ve got to sprint. Sprint!’”
Instilling that love for activity in students has always been a goal for Hudson. Though she started her career teaching older kids, she couldn’t resist returning to her old elementary school when the position opened up several years ago.
“I thought it would be a nice transition to teach the little ones since I had done two-thirds of my career with seventh and eighth-graders,” she said.
Though she was a little shy when she was a child – she recounted that her mother had her two older brothers make sure she made it to class every day, and every day they were late because she was crying – her love of athletics acted as a motivation for her.
“I really loved to come to school and be part of a team,” she said.
She tries to provide that same joy to her students, especially the shy ones.
“[It’s a highlight] just to see how they they bloom throughout the year. And they don’t have that fear of coming to school,” she said.
After Hudson graduated from Newark High – where she stayed active on the basketball and softball teams – and studied at UD, she returned to Christina as a teacher.
“I got a good education from the Christina district,” she said, adding, “I’m a homebody. I love the neighborhood so much that I bought the house next door to my mom. That was wonderful.”
She said she has enjoyed being part of the Downes community.
“It’s a real family environment,” she said. “Teachers will help one another out all the time. We’ve got a lot of great parents.”
Through her tenure at Downes, Hudson has established an annual walkathon, which this year raised $21,000 for the school; created Family Healthy Heart Night, which draws in students and their families to participate in activities like Jazzercise, beach volleyball, jump roping/hula hoops and relay races; and implemented Bike to School day, which later became a full week.
She also introduced different incentives that encourage children to walk or bike to school.
“[Students] telling me that this is the their favorite class, that just puts a smile on my face,” she said. “And I’m trying to teach them about why it’s important to be physically active and about eating the proper nutrition.”
She added that she is particularly pleased when they recite those facts back to her, or when parents approach her to say they got a lecture from their kids about activity and nutrition.
Though she won’t be working in the district any longer, she plans to stay involved. She has already lined up a part-time job with Newark Parks and Recreation to do morning care at Downes.
She said that her mom probably would have never guessed Hudson would have been a teacher. Looking back at her time at Downes, and her years in the district, though, she said it all worked out.
“These last 11 years have been a real joy,” she said. “And I’m glad I was able to come back here and end up where I started.”