Tanner Roos, UNI alum and physical education teacher at Linn Grove Elementary in Marion, is winning awards for his forward-thinking approach to physical education.

Roos was recently one of five winners of the national Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) Central District Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year award. In 2019, he was named the Iowa Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) Iowa Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year, which honors educators for their contributions to the field.

In addition to his award-winning work in the classroom, Roos was an elected Iowa AHPERD Leadership Council member and has developed a school-wide wellness council on campus. In his free time, he co-hosts a podcast, #LetsTalkPhysEd, blogs about the latest innovations in physical education, and is an editor for a popular physical education blog.

Fitness has been a lifelong love for the Denison native. He spent his summers riding his bike around town and meeting other kids for games of baseball. He was involved in soccer and track at Denison-Schleswig High School and quickly found it was more than a space to keep active, but also a way to learn new skills and make friends. That perspective was reinforced when he came to UNI in 1999.

He recalled spending time between classes hanging out in the Wellness Recreation Center, playing table tennis with friends. He also took challenging classes that pushed him out of his comfort zone and gained a leadership role with the UNI PE Club. Together, these experiences reminded him of what he always loved about sports and recreation.

“To have those connections with people was great … and [the classes] were able to help me figure out that I could be comfortable in what I am able to do and my ideas,” he said. “From then on I was hooked.”

Today, those experiences guide his work at Linn Grove Elementary. Roos uses technology to create an inclusive, engaging environment for students to learn and socialize. He uses devices that use QR codes to track students' understanding and provide data on their progress; he creates gifs of students executing moves and projects them on walls of the gymnasium so students can refer to them when they practice.

“If there's something new and exciting, I want to go out and try it. I like to be one of the first to struggle through it,” he said. “As far as my kids go, I like to give them the opportunity to experience a little bit of failure so they can realize there’s an area for growth. I’ve got to make sure it's not too tough, because I want them to feel the success, but I like to challenge them in different ways.”

Roos' ability to keep students engaged while challenging them, along with his efforts to stay on the cutting-edge of his field, is why he's won awards for his work.

"Tanner is a life-long learner and is always connecting beyond his school and district for new ideas and methods to bring to our students," said Chad B. Bucholz, former Principal at Linn Grove Elementary, in a letter supporting Roos' nomination for Iowa AHPERD Elementary Teacher of the Year. "Tanner has an extensive worldwide network of PE professionals ... Linn Grove students gain the most from this broad network of thinkers and teachers as a result of Tanner's ability to think outside the box and to bring new and innovative approaches to his teaching and learning environment."

For Roos, his teaching is also a way for him to connect to what he loved about sports as a kid — the opportunity to learn, grow and socialize. According to Roos, this perspective is becoming standard in the field and he’s helping to share this modern vision of physical education.

“PE is not what it was 40 years ago, 20 years ago, when a lot of us experienced it. We have standards, we have grade level outcomes that we’re wanting to attain,” he said. “We’re focused on acquiring skills. It’s not just, ‘Throw the ball and play games.’ There's so much social, emotional learning going on in PE. We have an opportunity to have a lot of discussions about sportsmanship and … to be an accepting community. Physical education gives us that opportunity to do that.”