There are educators, and then there are role models.
Brenda Jaeger, who retired in June from her physical education position at the Cooperstown Middle/High School, will be honored for helping children have positive experiences.
Jaeger will receive the Clark Sports Center’s 20th annual Fetterman Award, which is given to a person in the community who is dedicated to serving local youth, especially in the area of athletics. A ceremony will be held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, at the Otesaga Resort Hotel.
“Humbling” is the word used by Jaeger to describe what it felt like to be nominated for the award.
According to Val Paige, director of the Sports Center, Jaeger clearly stood out as the right choice for the award this year.
“We were like — holy cow — she really has a lot going on,” she said. “Brenda has done so many things that it is just unbelievable.”
Brenda Wedderspoon–Gray, who serves as the chairwoman of the selection committee, said she has seen Jaeger serve as a leader by example first-hand while coaching side-by-side with her at Cooperstown Central School.
“I don’t think it is the things that she has actually done physically that stand out, but it is the role model that she is at the school,” she said. “It is important to select people who set good examples of the way we want our young people to grow up and be.”
Paige said choosing a recipient for the award is not always so clear-cut.
“Cooperstown is a community that has so many people that are like Brenda, who are like so many people on this list (past recipients), who put a lot of time and effort into youth and sports. They are very caring people and they give a lot of time. This town is overrun by people like that. It is unbelievable.”
The award is given in memory of Patrick C. Fetterman, long time associate director of the gym. Past recipients include: 1993: Lavern “Beanie’’ Ainslie; 1994: Jack Vineyard; 1995: Ted Kantorowski; 1996: Malcolm Brooks; 1997-98: Jerry Townsend; 1999: Don Howard; 2000: Dick White; 2001: Pat and Ed Hazzard; 2002: Stephen “Sharky’’ Nagelschmidt; 2003: Frank Miosek; 2004: Ted Spencer; 2005: Terry Bliss; 2006: Dave Adsit; 2007: Bob Snyder; 2008: Connie Herzig, 2009: Brenda Wedderspoon-Gray; 2010: Paul Lambert; and in 2011 Bruce Andrews.
“Doing this award is our way of just saying thank you to these people and to show them how much we appreciate everything that they have done,” Paige said.
According to Paige, more than 450 years of service are represented by all the award winners whose names are on a trophy displayed at the Sports Center. Recipients also get a plaque to keep.
“Brenda certainly exemplifies the qualities we look for in a Fetterman award recipient. She teaches through example, shows good sportsmanship, enjoys what she does and is truly interested in helping children with a positive experience. She is well respected by adults as well as students, is honest, fair, ethical and has patience and a sense of humor,” Paige said.
Jaeger spent 23 years at CCS. However, she said her journey was a long one. In fact, she said she was not even sure if she wanted to be a physical education teacher.
”It was a toss up between becoming a film editor or becoming a PE teacher,” she said. “Most of the good film schools are out in California and there was no way I was going to be able to afford to go out there. It just would have been way too expensive, and I am glad I wasn’t able to afford that. ”
Although Jaeger went to the State University College at Cortland to become a physical education teacher, she said she ended up in Florida teaching science for a year. Then, Jaeger said she went to Cairo-Durham where she taught a half year teaching physical education, 10 months teaching math, coaching and substitute teaching. Kingston was her next stop on her journey. There, at Coleman High School, she said she taught four years of physical education, three years of physical science and some health classes. Jaeger said she went to teaching just physical education and coaching when she moved on to Germantown. She said she spent five years there.
Jaeger said throughout the years she has coached field hockey, volleyball, basketball and track. She was the Outward Bound coordinator at CCS, Girls Athletic Association adviser and played a lead role in the school health fair that examined healthy alternatives and fitness. Jaeger was named Teacher of the Year by the Rotary club in 2009.
Not having to do any planning this summer seemed strange, according to Jaeger. She aid she tried to always come up with new ideas to keep students engaged.
Jaeger developed a new curriculum for Cooperstown’s physical education classes by focusing on nontraditional activities. Some of her units included circus arts to develop hand-eye coordination and balance; a fly fishing environmental program combined with a biology unit that involved visiting fish hatcheries, raising trout and releasing; a seventh- and eighth-grade adventure program; aerobic drumming; having students work on a winter project that had them research an outdoor activity and do a presentation on it; fencing classes; square dancing and having eighth-graders build cardboard boats to race across the Susquehanna River.
The retired physical education teacher said she spent eight years attending Catholic school so she could not participate in athletics until reaching the ninth-grade.
“It made it really special for me. I had really great coaches and I just wanted to give the kids the opportunities that I had. If it were not for those coaches I probably would not be here right now,” Jaeger said.
Wedderspoon-Gray said Jaeger never took the easy way out. Jaeger was innovative and came up with new lesson plans, and that is why she had such a positive impact on students, she said. “Brenda kept an interest throughout her entire career and she kept the spark going for the kids,” she added. “I’m sure they would come back to school each fall wondering what new class she would be teaching that year.”