Ridge View Elementary PE teacher has the “Wright” attitudeNov 01, 2022 07:42PM ● By Jet Burnham
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Taylor Wright always thought that by now he’d be coaching the Dallas Cowboys. But today, he is an elementary physical education teacher at Ridge View Elementary in Herriman, Utah. As a nationally certified physical education teacher with a background in coaching football at the middle school, high school and college level, Wright is not a typical elementary school PE teacher. Most local elementary PE programs are run by regular classroom teachers or aides.
Ridge View Elementary Principal Meredith Doleac said Wright is more than just a qualified PE teacher.
“He's got the personality for it,” she said. “He is high energy with the kids. The kids are engaged in class—they need that movement and that exercise—they're having fun, but at the same time, he's working on specific PE standards and they're learning, but they're looking at it as fun. He has just a real positive outlook on things, and I think that translates to the classroom and to his instruction.”
Wright’s positivity and enthusiasm come from a life changing moment he experienced seven years ago. He was lying paralyzed in a hospital bed, recovering from a surgery to treat an aggressive cancer, waiting to hear the test results for a secondary cancer, and thinking about how he had not been living up to his potential.
“I felt so dumb for all the times I was petty, all the times I was mad about something, all the times I just didn't line up with my own integrity, all the times that I could have done better and I didn't do better,” he said.
He committed to be a better version of himself if he survived.
“I told myself, I’m going to live with a sense of purpose that I’ve never had before and I’m going to enrich those I’m around,” he said. “Just the process of just being a better version of ourselves, I think, gives us fulfillment. For me, the highest version of myself is enriching those around me and just being a beacon, doing what I can in my time and in my little sphere of influence.”
The 35-year-old from Alabama moved to Utah for life-saving treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He continues to deal with the cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia, which has attacked the bones in his neck and hips, even while juggling two jobs, working with individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, and teaching elementary PE classes.
“I'm really excited because I'm transforming myself into the 2.0 version of myself right now,” Wright said. “It doesn't matter what your circumstances are, if you think you have one day left or 100 years left. The process, what it looks like from all the research and science and from my own life, what it shows me is the process of just working to be a better version of yourself and making life better for other people, that's the sweet spot in life.”
Wright has faced many difficult challenges—seven years of cancer, recovery from paralysis and learning to walk and feed himself again, even struggling with a lifelong stutter. He said he is grateful for these experiences.
“It’s good to go through things that are hard because it puts things in perspective,” he said. “I think an easy life is not a great life. I believe you should always take on challenges in life and not look for a way out.”
When students complain to him that something is too hard, he encourages them to push through, to get outside their comfort zone, and to replace limiting self-beliefs.
“I tell them, ‘Don't want life to be easy, want yourself to do better, see this as an opportunity right now to keep pushing, keep grinding and don't quit,’” he said. “It's okay to struggle and push because that's what makes you who you are. It's the hardest things in life that you're most proud of.”
Wright teaches PE to 1,100 Ridge View Elementary students each week. He ends each class with a positive message and an offer of help and support. He hopes students will learn to have a positive attitude about hard things, which will help them as they get older. Another of his goals is for all kids, whether they enjoy athletics or not, to have a positive experience with PE classes so that they will maintain life-long healthy habits.
“I tell the kids all the time, ‘my goal is for you to have a positive experience, so in 25 years from now, when you have children in your backyard, you can go out there and do these activities with them and have a great time,’” he said.
Wright plans fun and engaging PE activities which incorporate the state standards of physical skill development, such as throwing and catching a ball, and often reinforce academic skills, such as counting and keeping score. His activities also help students develop life skills, such as teamwork, cooperation, integrity, hard work and how to lose.
“There’s no such thing as losing, it’s just growth,” Wright believes. “We’re always growing, and growing is to become more of your best self.”
Wright loves his job, the community he’s found in Utah and the opportunity to strive to become better each day.
“The happiest that you'll ever be is when you do your best,” he said. “Life is just a bunch of challenges and all you can do is do your best and take refuge in the process of working to be a better version of yourself.”