Photo by Michael P. Farrell/Times Union by permission
Educators Who Change Lives
Running fast, standing tall
How one New York teacher gets her kids moving in the right direction.
Fifth-grade teacher Mindy Whisenhunt has a photo of herself, running a race, tacked to the wall of her Albany classroom. It caught her students’ attention because it’s not the typical sweat-and-shorts race photo.
Mindy Whisenhunt is wearing a ball gown and tiara.
When her girls saw the picture, they clamored to join the fun. “Let’s go for it!” Whisenhunt told them.
Whisenhunt wanted her students—almost all of them on free or reduced-price lunch, many of them immigrants from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico—to feel the thrill of the finish line. She wanted them to care for their growing bodies. She wanted them to know that yes, you can do this! You can do anything if you train and practice and “never, never, never, never, never give up!”
So they practiced before school every morning, walking and running laps around their inner city playground. Whisenhunt found dance tutus for every girl and bought each one a tiara. And then, on a hot and humid June morning, the team from the Delaware Community School joined nearly 4,000 runners in the annual Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K.
Whisenhunt ran side-by-side with the slowest runner, practically dragging her by the hand as she faltered—“I can’t do this!” That same girl, standing tall at the finish line, modestly told a news reporter, “I wanted to see what winning felt like. And now I know!”