School of Kinesiology and Recreation alum Kyle Bragg ’10 certainly knows the value of hard work and persistence.
Growing up in the local community, Bragg says it was always his dream to attend college at Illinois State. His mother, a faculty member in the College of Education, inspired him to explore a teaching career and pursue a future at ISU. Bragg also had a dream to play golf at a collegiate level, something he hoped to be able to accomplish as a Redbird.
The journey to his college career presented him with several obstacles he had to overcome in order to accomplish his goals, however. Bragg wasn’t originally accepted to Illinois State, and was not offered a scholarship to play golf as a Redbird.
His setbacks did not stop him, though. He studied and worked hard to bring up his test scores, was eventually accepted, and joined the golf team as a walk-on addition (where he was eventually awarded a scholarship and earned a Missouri Valley all-conference honor).
“I always tell people that attending ISU was the best decision I ever made…I learned to never let anyone tell me that I cannot do something,” he said.
Bragg was able to take what he learned in his time at Illinois State and apply it his career field post-graduation. He has been quite successful in his position as an elementary physical education teacher in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“For the last five years I’ve been at a school that values me, that trusts me, and really appreciates what I do. I’m proud of what I am doing for my students here,” he said.
Bragg was named the 2021 Shape America Western District Elementary PE Teacher of the Year. He is also a National Board-Certified Teacher and serves as the Advocacy Chair for the Arizona Health and Physical Education Association. He’ll find out in April if he has been selected as the National PE Teacher of the Year.
Bragg notes that while he is proud of his individual accomplishments, he is truly passionate about working with his students and teaching others about the impact of physical education both inside and outside of the classroom.
“I take pride in developing the whole child, going beyond just the physical skills and helping them explore things like problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. I was attracted to the impact that I could make, reaching every single student and integrating those different skills into a program,” he said.
Bragg integrates factors of social emotional learning, equity, diversity, and inclusion into his curriculum in an effort to make students feel comfortable, valued, and respected regardless of their background or skill level.
“This all aligns within our curriculum. We are always trying to have that social interaction but also make people feel comfortable no matter where they’re from or what their skill level is. Hopefully, these skills can be transferred into other settings beyond PE class,” he said.
Like many other teachers in the nation, Bragg had to make adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although he and his students have returned to an in-person classroom setting, there was a time where Bragg had to creatively conduct his classes online.
“I had to make some changes when we went online, especially when it came to equipment. I had to figure out how to replace PE equipment with household items, so every child can get access to class activities. We used rolled up socks for bean bags, spatulas for paddles, and plastic grocery bags for scarves,” he said..
Bragg says the most rewarding part of his job is providing students with the opportunity to figure out what they are passionate about, and work on developing skills that can be used outside of the classroom.
“That feeling that you get when students grasp a concept or apply skills beyond the classroom setting is so fulfilling,” he said. “If you love working with children, teaching is a great opportunity. It’s the best job in the world.”
With all his success post-graduation, Bragg still finds a way to stay connected to Illinois State. He remains in contact with his former golf coach Ray Kralis and many of his former professors, and gives back to Redbird community when he can.
“It’s just so rewarding to stay connected and see what is going on at ISU. I would encourage students to follow their dreams but also consider staying connected and giving back in whatever way possible.”