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The City Journals

Corner Canyon High’s Wilder named Most Improved in heart challenge, all teacher participants win

Feb 05, 2019 01:24PM ● By Julie Slama

Corner Canyon High’s Mindy Wilder and Taylorsville High’s Kevin Harwood came away with Most Improved and Overall Winner titles, respectively, in the teacher 2018 My Heart Challenge. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

After 100 days, Corner Canyon High teacher Mindy Wilder dropped 44 pounds.

This helped her edge out competition with 13 other high school teachers across the Salt Lake Valley to win the Most Improved title in the 2018 My Heart Challenge, which helped her earn $1,000 for her school.

However, all the teachers say they were winners in improving their own health.

Through the program, all the teachers received individual coaching and counseling from heart experts at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, talking to exercise specialists, dietitians, counselors and cardiologists. They were introduced to various exercises, which they might not have been familiar with from yoga to boxing, and participated in weekly health assessments.

Together, they exercised 46,194 minutes and lost 212 pounds. Their cholesterol levels decreased 14 percent while their triglycerides dropped 32 percent. Through an increase of 18 percent of aerobic fitness, their body fat went down 19 percent.

Wilder, who already was familiar with healthy eating and lifestyle from being the school’s volleyball coach and physical education chair, made the effort to also share what she learned with students.

“Everything I learned, I took back to my ninth-grade class, including nutrition and exercise logs,” Wilder said. “They made a lot of progress. The volleyball team was very engaged and preferred fruit and vegetables over snack foods.”

She said her volleyball team also kept her on track through reminders and asking about her progress.

Wilder also introduced yoga to nearby Crescent Elementary in Sandy in early November, getting six classes of third- and fourth-graders to become active.

“The elementary kids became more flexible,” she said. “It was fun to see them take an interest and liking to trying something new.”

Wilder is committed to continuing the program even though the challenge is over.

“I learned little things that will make a lifetime change for me,” she said.

She isn’t alone. She had the support of faculty members, some who joined her in the effort, including Principal Darrell Jensen.

“I lost 35 pounds and I started earlier, but her commitment motivated others to join her in workouts and lead healthier lives,” he said. “She’s set a great example for our students and especially our student-athletes.”

The overall winner was Taylorsville High School English teacher Kevin Harwood, who used the book The Jungle as a platform to have class discussions about prepared and processed foods.

About 500 Taylorsville High students also listened to a Cornell University professor, who Harwood arranged to come to classes and speak about the ethics of farming, protecting the forests and environment, and heart disease associated with a red meat diet.

Harwood decided to take part in the challenge to be a more active grandfather.

“For me, participating in the challenge was a wake-up call. It got me thinking about what I’m doing and how it takes time to develop healthy habits,” he said.

Before the contest, Harwood admits he developed poor habits after running the 1994 St. George marathon and would eat weekly at a Mexican restaurant and turn on Netflix instead of hitting a treadmill and eating fruits and vegetables.

“I learned valuable information that transformed my life,” he said, adding that his family also participated, including the family dog, Daisy, who took him on four-mile daily walks.

Other teachers shared what they learned to their classes and schools. Pepper Poulsen, at Bingham High in South Jordan, involved students, who performed a rap at the December awards ceremony. 

At Jordan High in Sandy, Nicole Manwaring, who biked to work, had her school participate in tracking steps as well as having the chef program at the school prepare a healthy meal in December. She even got the preschoolers to learn to exercise while learning their letters, said Principal Wendy Dau.

Murray High’s Keeko Georgelas worked with their school’s culinary arts students to hold a fundraiser dinner for heart research for Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, which could help pay living expenses for families of patients undergoing heart transplants.

“I hope it becomes an annual event,” he said. “This impacted my life as well as students and faculty at Murray.”

Kristina Kimble, of Alta High in Sandy, said it was easier knowing other teachers also were committed to the program.

“I can email or talk to any of these teachers and known that we will continue to be supportive of one another,” she said. “It’s not over. It’s a lifetime commitment. We all succeeded in becoming healthier so we all won.”

In Canyons School District, besides Wilder, Manwaring and Kimble, Brighton High’s Pace Gardner and Hillcrest High’s Jordan Hulet also participated in the challenge.