Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Health
Visitors to Marilyn Hunt’s office will find it tucked away next to the Middle School gymnasium. Even with the door closed, the sounds of children shouting and balls bouncing—the familiar sounds of PE class—can be heard. What office space could be more fitting for the Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Health who has been at the core of Windward’s physical education and sports programs since her arrival 27 years ago, in 1983?
That year, Ms. Hunt had just graduated from Kings College in Briarcliff Manor, NY, with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. A three-sport athlete (basketball, field hockey and softball), Ms. Hunt had grown up in an athletic household and was eager to begin her career as a physical education teacher. “I sent out tons of applications and got two interviews!” she recalls. One of those interviews was at Windward, where she was hired as a part-time physical education instructor. It proved to be, as they say, a “win-win” for Ms. hunt and Windward.
At that time, Windward had 125 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, located in the “old” portion of the current Lower School building. “The school had a family-like atmosphere,” Ms. Hunt says. however, the limited facilities—all physical education classes were run out of the multi-purpose room—presented challenges for the PE faculty, which was comprised of Ms. Hunt and fellow teacher Larry Crosby. “We had to be very creative,” she says. Due to the wide age range of students, the two PE teachers worked to ensure that there were a variety of age-appropriate activities. By her second year with the school, Ms. Hunt was hired full-time.
In 1988, Dr. Judith C. Hochman was appointed head of School. Ms. Hunt says, “Dr. Hochman had a vision for Windward. That’s when the school began to flourish, and I grew along with the school.” In 1993, when the Lower School building was expanded, the physical education department benefited from additional facilities, including a gymnasium and non-regulation playing field. That same year Dr. Hochman asked Ms. Hunt to become Director of Physical Education and Athletics.
During this period, Ms. Hunt fostered Windward’s fledgling athletics program by giving students the opportunity to play soccer and softball. once again, resourcefulness was required. “The program started to grow but we didn’t have enough space, so we rented playing fields from the White Plains Parks and Recreation department,” she says. “In fact, to this day we still use a White Plains field for some soccer practices.” In 2001 the addition of the Red Oak Middle School building, with its full-size gymnasium and regulation playing fields, was, to Ms. Hunt and her staff, “a Godsend!”
Ms. Hunt explains that Windward’s physical education program is integrated with the school philosophy and teaching methods. The physical education teachers use a multisensory approach along with direct instruction, which is consistent with classroom teaching. “I have the pleasure of working with seven excellent p.e. teachers between both schools. We give the students many opportunities to achieve success, and the parents and administration are very supportive. I’ve had parents say that their child never felt comfortable playing sports until they came here. one of my goals is to keep the kids excited about physical activity and involved so that they continue those good habits at home and when they leave Windward.”
Christopher Eberhard, Assistant Head of Middle School, has worked with Ms. Hunt since coming to Windward as a math and science teacher in 1996. “After all these years she’s still passionate about all aspects of her work, especially the students’ safety,” he comments.
“The kids love her, but she’s stern when she has to be.” Mr. Eberhard regularly coaches teams and reports, “Marilyn is incredibly organized. She sets everything up for the coaches so that we don’t waste time finding facilities and supplies; this lets us focus on the kids.” he goes on, “She is effective because she cares about both kids and athletics and understands the relationship between the two.”
These days, thanks to Ms. Hunt’s leadership, Windward’s athletics program is thriving. In addition to traditional physical education sports, students also participate in activities like power walking, yoga, Dance Dance Revolution and badminton, as well as using fitness equipment. Students at the Middle School can participate in a wide range of interscholastic sports like cross country, lacrosse, basketball, softball and soccer through the Fairchester League, as well as intramural sports.
Instructional sports like fencing and tennis are also offered. At the Lower School, students may participate in an after school sports program that ties in with physical education classes. one- third of Windward students participate in sports each season. There are also just-for-fun events, like Field Day and the Pep Rally. “Those are really amazing events, and Marilyn runs them all,” Mr. Eberhard notes.
At Windward all students have an opportunity to join a team, which helps them to feel part of the School community. “Kids of all ability levels are on the same team,” Ms. Hunt says. “everybody gets a chance to play and the kids help each other. Almost all of the coaches are Windward teachers and they do an amazing job working with our student-athletes. They all care about the students and make sure they enjoy the season. At many of the schools our teams visit, we hear compliments about our players’ sportsmanship and determination. I’m proud of the way they represent Windward.”
When she’s not supervising the myriad athletics activities at Windward, Ms. Hunt enjoys biking, golf, snowboarding and softball. She has taken bicycle tours of Ireland, england and Italy—and has even bumped into Windward students while on her travels. “I was on a ferry to the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland and a boy came up to me and said, ‘Hi Ms. Hunt!’” she recalls. encounters like that make her smile because, in the end, she says, “It’s all about the kids.