Totally Stoked! How one PE-DAPE student's future got rolling

Mallory Stiff didn't expect skateboarding to lead to being an author, teacher and presenter - all as an undergrad. But it did and she's totally on board.

December 21, 2023 |

Mallory Stiff pointing to a journal she was published in. She is standing in a gymnasium.When Physical Education and Developmental Adapted Physical Education (DAPE) major Mallory Stiff chose Minnesota State Mankato, she didn’t expect to learn skateboarding as part of her course work.

And she certainly didn’t expect that by her senior year she would have already helped create and implement lesson plans for area homeschoolers to learn skateboarding skills and co-author an article about implementing skateboarding in the classroom with one of her professors.

“I didn’t even know how to skateboard before we had to teach it,” Stiff said. “I wasn’t expecting anything like this but it’s all super cool.”

Getting on board

Although skateboarding may not seem like a first choice for physical educators to teach, Stiff said it reflects what she’s learning—to instill in her future students the knowledge, skills and confidence that will support lifelong physical health.

“Skateboarding is unique, it doesn’t require a ton of equipment, and it doesn’t have the pressure that some group or team activities may have,” Stiff said. “People can listen to music, be outside and determine their own pace.” And, she said, it’s safer than many may think. In fact, Stiff and her classmates are now well-versed in helmets, knee pads and how to fall with only a bruised ego at most.

Professor Ben Schwamberger with student Mallory Stiff, in a gymnasium on campus, both holding skateboards.Catching Air

Under the guidance of Dr. Ben Schwamberger, (pictured on left with Stiff) a professor of health and physical education, Stiff and her classmates not only learned how to skateboard but then created and implemented lesson plans for a group of Mankato area homeschoolers.

“Our students not only get the unique opportunity to teach students, but to plan and organize content,” Schwamberger said. “And area homeschool families are able to have their kids participate in developmentally appropriate lessons. It’s a great partnership.”

The skateboarding unit led to several students presenting at a professional conference about how to incorporate skateboarding into physical education curriculums, which led to Stiff working with Schwamberger on an article for Strategies, a journal focused on practical “how-to” recommendations for current and future physical education, school health and coaching professionals. 

“In teacher preparation programs, research with undergraduate students can be difficult, and while our article didn’t conduct research directly, it was a great example of one of the ways our undergraduates can engage in scholarship,” Schwamberger said.

Sticking the Landing

With an expected graduation of spring 2024 and licensure in both Physical Education and DAPE, Stiff is weighing the pros and cons of being a high school or elementary physical education teacher, saying she could see herself in both settings.

Either way, she plans to incorporate DAPE into her teaching. Growing up with a cousin with Down syndrome, she believes everyone has a right to be physically active and that it’s important to continuously work toward inclusivity.

“I’ve been thinking about what I want to do a lot,” Stiff said. “We are given so many great opportunities at Minnesota State Mankato. I feel like I will be very well prepared for when I get my first job.”

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