Herta Dennett, a first-grade teacher in Granite District's Canyon Rim Elementary School, "runs" a tight ship.
The teacher believes healthy bodies provide a home for healthy minds, and she puts the theory into action.The sight of Dennett with a herd of eight to 24 small students in tow, running or speed-walking during off-school hours, is familiar in the Canyon Rim neighborhood. The exercise program operates before school, on Thursday afternoons, after school and on some Saturdays.
When the weather doesn't cooperate, the students do their walk/run in the school's halls. Some Canyon Rim parents have joined their youngsters for weekend hikes, trekking through City Creek Canyon, up Ensign Peak, into the Little Mountain or Lamb's Canyon areas or Grandeur Peak.
The outings also become an exercise in extended education, as those participating talk about birds, plants, geology and other things they see along the way.
Daily mileage is logged. One of Dennett's first-graders, Park Soren sen, had racked up more than 500 miles by April 13. Each 40-mile mark is worth a certificate.
"We think the world of her," Park's father, Jay Sorensen, said of the teacher's "extra mile" efforts. The father attributed an improvement in Park's overall school performance to the added attention the teacher gives.
Dennett grew up with a taste for walking in a "tiny mountain village in the Alps of Austria." She began working as a medical laboratory technologist, but switched careers, becoming a teacher so her schedule more closely matched that of her children.
"I try to educate the young students in physical movement and exercise to enhance mind and body coordination, and for the joy of discovering learning and living more fully with a healthy body," said Dennett, whose youthful 60 years will soon lead to retirement. Chil dren with hyperactivity particularly respond well, she said.