Deborah Tackmann has taught health to elementary, middle- and high-school kids since 1976. Since 1976! Back then, the AIDS epidemic hadn't begun, only 5% of kids were obese (compared to today's 17%), and being gay was a "lifestyle choice."
So how have health curriculums evolved? Tackmann, who has more than 400 students this semester alone, describes what's changed in her 40-plus years of teaching -- and what has stayed the same.
When you started teaching in the 1970s, what was the state curriculum like?
We didn't have one. There was no real direction on a local, state, or national level.
Predominately, most people who taught health looked at lifestyle choices -- what are you doing today that improves your health or prevents diseases? It was a systems approach: here's the respiratory system, the circulatory system. What are the components and what can we do to help improve those systems?
And we didn't know much. The research wasn't really there. We did have minimal professional development. I remember going to a convention my junior or senior year of college, but it was focused on physical education -- more of a disease-prevention format. I would constantly go to professional development workshops, and in my fourth year of teaching, all of a sudden we realized, "Oh, we have an issue with suicide. Maybe we should talk about it." But we didn't know how to teach it. We just navigated it the best we could.