Welcome to an insightful interview with Coach Ron, a passionate advocate for Adapted Physical Education (APE) and the creative mind behind the Coach Ron and Baru YouTube channel. With over two decades of experience working with students with disabilities, Coach Ron has a wealth of knowledge and heartwarming stories to share. His journey into the world of APE began in an unconventional way, and he has since dedicated himself to making physical education accessible and enjoyable for all. Through his website, Facebook group, and entertaining videos, Coach Ron has become a source of inspiration and support for teachers and students alike. Join us as we delve into his experiences, his motivation, and the delightful presence of Baru, the Amazonian bear, in his teaching methods.
Q. Can you tell us more about your background and how you got started in the field of Adapted Physical Education?
I started teaching and coaching swimming. I did that for quite a while and at a lot of levels. It’s where I learned most of the skills I use as an APE Teacher. I bombed out of two teaching programs and I was lucky to find APE. It’s kinda funny. I remember Karl Knoff, a long time APE professor at Foothill College was trying to get me into it. I should have listened to him.
Q. What inspired you to create this website and start sharing your knowledge through videos and blog posts?
There’s really three parts…the website, the Facebook group and the videos on Youtube.. I’ve been fascinated by websites and trying to do side hustles since the early 2000. I got inspired by Matt Furey. I love the idea of marketing and sharing information, writing books and selling them. I never had much luck, gave up multiple times, and had a variety of websites. All the sites dealt with kids, sports, swimming and fitness.
About 8 years ago, I was at a NAPEC convention and I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a Facebook group. So I started that. I remember when I was so excited that I got my first ten members. Now, we’re up to 7,000. My guess is about 5,000 are APES though it might be higher.
The Coach Ron and Baru Youtube idea came during Covid when we were doing all the online learning. I thought it would be pretty easy to make videos for our kids. Most of the videos for kids aren’t appropriate for our students. The most popular ones are put out by people who have no idea what physical education is, which is a pet peeve of mine.
The idea is a good one. The “pretty easy” was a HUGE mistake. It’s very difficult from planning the videos, writing the songs, doing the technical side of it and not to mention the performing. You don’t know how hard acting and singing in front a a camera is until you try it!
Q. In your 20 years of experience, could you share one of the most heartwarming or memorable moments you’ve had while working with students with disabilities?
There’s many but the one that stands out was a fifth grade student who was blind. She had had a goal of walking independently since 2nd grade. I helped her learn to walk fairly independently in three months. Curious how I did it? First, we worked on stopping. We would walk for a few steps and then I would say “stop” and she learned to stop and balance herself. The second part was I stood in front of her and had her walk for two steps independently. Then I moved back a few feet…and then a few feet more. Exactly, the same way I thought beginning swimmers to be independent in the water. Three months later, she could walk 200 yards without using a human guard.
Q. Adapted Physical Education can have its challenges. How do you stay motivated and keep persevering, even in the face of frustration?
First, I’m not sure how motivated I am. I like people and I want to do a good job and honor the kids.. But I know I could work a lot harder and do more if I was super motivated. My frustrations don’t come from the kids. They come from administrators, teachers and staff. They don’t see the value of movement and gross motor skills. But I think for the moderate to severe to the profound student’s I see, movement and gross motor should be 90% of what they do.
Q. Can you share a funny or lighthearted anecdote from your career that made you realize the importance of a sense of humor in teaching?
I laugh a lot on the job. And in general. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed relatively healthy and young. The one thing I bring to my job is a sense of enjoyment, fun and respect. I think the kids pick up on that. Watching a kid smile and rock to a 50’s beat is awesome.
Questions for Baru:
Q. Baru, you’re a unique addition to Coach Ron’s teaching methods. How do you feel about being a part of the videos, and do you have any favorite moments from your on-screen adventures?
I love being in the videos. I love it when Coach Ron starts rocking and the green screen moves and then I move. I also like it when he and his wife argue about what’s the best way to move me or Coach Ron has to do twenty takes because he keeps messing up the lyrics or his lines. He’s a bit of a nut.
My favorite videos are the vertical videos because in those, I get to talk. We are working on making more of them. The goal is to be able to get about five a week. They are pretty funny, if I do say so myself. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more of those.
Q. Can you give us some insights into your evolving personality in the videos? What can viewers expect to see from you in the future?
Coach Ron here…Baru, I’m going to take this one. In the vertical videos we have to be careful about staying on brand and not getting too far off. I think for the music and instructional videos he pretty much won’t be talking. We are working on animation for him, but that’s a ways off. The vertical videos can be a little more risky. His personality in those is kinda snarky and sarcastic with picking on me. It’s more adult humor. The market is for special education teachers to be curious and then go to the channel for their students.
Q. How do you think children with disabilities respond to your presence in the videos? Have you noticed any particularly joyful or surprising reactions from them?
I hope they love it. I do know when Coach Ron goes into a classroom that plays our videos they love to stare at him like he’s a real rock star. The looks are priceless.
Q.Baru, as an Amazonian bear, do you have any special exercise routines or favorite physical activities that you’d like to share with the kids?
Baru Goes Over the Mountain is my favorite. It’s got lots of movements and it tells a story. I hope Coach Ron does more story videos. It’s a great way to have an adventure in class.
Q. If you could have a dream adventure with Coach Ron and the children, where would you go and what activity would you all do together?
I would love to go visit classrooms with Coach Ron and have him play the guitar and sing in person when he retires. I think that would be really fun. I also hope to go with him to interview Adapted PE teachers for his podcast. Coach Ron will be moving overseas soon and I hope he takes me with him and maybe we can do interviews with APE teachers from other countries too.
Notes from Matt
Ron is an exceptional educator who has made an indelible impact on our community through his unwavering dedication. His work has touched the lives of countless teachers and students, fostering a sense of belonging through his vibrant Facebook group and delivering valuable, engaging videos alongside his trusty sidekick, Baru, for students with limited mobility. Ron is undeniably a remarkable educator! We encourage you to show your support by subscribing to his YouTube channel and expressing your gratitude on Facebook. As he embarks on a well-deserved retirement, let’s celebrate Ron’s incredible contributions to the field of education. Happy retirement, Ron!