OPRF High School’s Linda Carlson has been named the 2017 National High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators). Her award was announced at SHAPE America’s annual conference last week. Prior to winning at the national level, Ms. Carlson won the state and Midwest regional levels.
Carlson, now in her 23rd year at OPRF High School, is a passionate advocate for teaching self-defense. She led the development of OPRF’s R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) course, now a required 45-day physical education unit for all freshman girls. OPRF is the only high school in the state that requires students to take a self-defense unit.
Based on a nationally recognized rape and aggression prevention program, R.A.D. teaches girls cognitive, emotional, and physical strategies to navigate potentially dangerous situations that they can apply in their friendships, romantic relationships, and familial circles. A culminating experience of the class is when students get to “attack” a local police officer role-playing an assailant during simulation practice. The successful implementation of R.A.D. at OPRF catalyzed the development of a similar class required for freshman boys.
“Linda’s impact on students over the past 23 years is immeasurable,” said Clay Reagan, OPRF’s division head of physical education/driver education. “Each year I see alumni return to thank her for the empowering experience they had in her class. Linda is one of those people who makes everyone around her better, and we are so fortunate to have her at OPRF.”
Carlson says her goal is to spread the R.A.D. curriculum to as many high schools as possible before she retires. As a trained instructor of the the national course, she has taught an intensive 30-hour workshop to certify local teachers at 19 Chicago-area high schools. “It’s a privilege to empower students not just physically but also socially and emotionally, to remind themselves that they are worthy of protection in all their relationships,” Carlson said. She added that while winning the award is an honor, it isn’t her main focus. “If by winning more students are safe and protected—that’s the real win.”