Teacher Matt Dadey knocks down barriers, both physical and mental, so kids with disabilities can find success in sports.
His hard work was recognized last month when Dadey earned the New York State Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year award. He works for the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District.
"I think we have a very good program here at ESM and the fact that its being acknowledged state-wide says a lot about the program," said a humble and honored Dadey.
The 10-year schoolteacher works with approximately 40 to 50 children from kindergarten through 12th grade whose disabilities range from physical to cognitive, including cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida and visual impairment. Dadey's job is to modify activities in the physical education curriculum so these kids can enjoy the same exercises as their peers. He takes his students on field trips to ice skate or hike, and they kayak or canoe using an outrigger system on campus at Butternut Creek.
"For a lot of [the kids], this is their first time getting in a kayak, [their] first time they pull back a bow for archery, and to see the smiles on their faces, and their success, is just incredible," Dadey said.
Parents are also encouraged to get involved. If they see what their child can do in school, Dadey said, then the kids are more apt to exercise at home. For instance, when Dadey was having trouble finding activities for one of his students, he took him snowshoeing.
"It's simple, just walking outside in the woods," he said.
The next year the entire family bought snowshoes to join him and his new winter sport.
"That's nice to see," said Dadey, who recommends individual over team-oriented sports such as soccer or hockey. "Lifetime leisure activities [such as horse-back riding, kayaking and snowshoeing] are more adaptable [and] easier to modify."
In addition to teaching, Dadey is on the board of directors for Arise at the Farm, an accessible, integrated recreational facility in Chittenango. It offers activities to include adaptive and therapeutic horseback riding, horse cart driving, adaptive fishing and cycling and a high and low adventure ropes course.
For more information on its programs, visit ariseinc.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.