Brian Hetrick Receives NYS AHPERD Award

It should come as no surprise to any in the LHS family that Owl Adventure Teacher Brian Hetrick was named the recipient of the 2022 Secondary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award. Hetrick is an approachable, friendly figure who educates his classes with strong enthusiasm, emboldened by his passion for the outdoors and teaching. Freshman Cassandra Levinson, one of Hetrick’s pupils, described him as possessing qualities of “happiness, optimism, and diligence” and being calm and nonjudgmental. Nominated by the Nassau Zone of the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AHPERD), the award is described to be awarded annually in recognition of a P.E. teacher’s extraordinary contributions to his/her students, district, and community.

Before holding his position of sixteen years at LHS, Hetrick was a classroom elementary teacher at Waverly Park School for nine years. While at Waverly, Hetrick was coaching and wanted to teach P.E., so he attended Adelphi University for his master’s degree. It was only natural for him to then apply and get a job at LHS. Since then, he started the Owl Adventure program in 2008, which entailed creating an entire curriculum on his own and presenting it to the district administration to finalize it into a course. He has also been a participant in past AHPERD events as a speaker, raising awareness for his Owl Adventure curriculum. 

Levinson expressed her delight for Hetrick’s win: “I am deeply happy for Mr. Hetrick!” Principal Joseph Rainis shared similar sentiments. “As an enthusiastic, student-centered educator, it’s not surprising to me that Mr. Hetrick won an award for his professionalism and his teaching,” he said. “I’m surprised it took so long for others to recognize what I think we already know! He makes sure to take full advantage of the opportunity to make other people’s days better, every day,” Rainis added. “How do you have someone like that in your building and not have them recognized?” 

Levinson also explained what she thought made Hetrick stand out from the other nominees: a “connecting aura” that brings “calmness to all situations,” describing his disposition as a metaphorical deep breath. “This is a presence that I think not many people have,” she said. “As a teacher, he also has a deep desire to learn, and often from his students, which I find very admirable. I truly appreciate it when teachers encourage noetic discussions in which we can share things that may be precious to us without fear of judgment.” Describing her favorite traits about him, Levinson noted his desire to take the pressure off of students and simply have fun. She added, “Rather than his class simply being about physical education, it’s more about an appreciation for life and one’s ability to care about all aspects of one’s health.” 

When asked what makes him stand out from other Nassau County P.E. educators, Hetrick guessed it was that he took the initiative to become an “Adventure Education” expert. “It has set me apart from most other physical education teachers, and I continue to teach others in the field. I also really enjoy and care for my students. I am lucky to be able to get to know and care for over 250 students per year.” As for celebrating, he prefers to keep it simple. “I will go out to eat some Indian food with my lovely wife, Ms. Zisel,” he said. 

An example to his students and colleagues, Hetrick exemplifies the best qualities of an educator. Knowledgeable, relatable, fun, and down-to-earth, his ability to deeply connect with students is a truly valuable gift. Congratulations, Mr. Hetrick!