LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Todd Papianou

Position: Physical Education Teacher
School: Mountain Valley High School
School District: RSU 10 Western Foothills
City, State: Rumford, ME

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Todd Papianou was nominated by Karen Wilson, a family member.

Mr. Papianou pursued education as a career because he struggled with school as a child. He decided to become an educator to help reach students who find school difficult and may not always feel successful. He has always been passionate about the outdoors and recreation. His desire to share those passions with children has driven him to think outside of the box and create programming to meet the needs of all kids, not just traditional athletes. As a result, he has changed the lives of many students by introducing them to lifelong pursuits they may have never been exposed to otherwise.

Mr. Papianou has created programs around biking, skateboarding, fishing, golf, disk golf, canoeing, kayaking, Nordic skiing, adventure sledding, snowshoeing, racket sports, and team building. His programs are inclusive, serving both natural athletes and students who struggle with physical pursuits. He never leaves a student out and finds ways for all kids to succeed. He has recently developed an outing club to take students camping, backpacking, canoeing, biking, and backcountry skiing. Many of his students have gone on to pursue these activities as adults. 

Mr. Papianou also loves coaching. He works with students after school as the alpine ski team coach and the boy's tennis coach. He has hosted teams at his home for meals, taught his athletes how to tune skis in his basement, and hosted BBQs with neighboring rival teams to build community. His student-athletes know that he puts them first and has faith in them. He believes any student should be able to join a team and feel like a part of a team's family, so he uses his own money to buy ski tune equipment and ski racing gear for kids who need it. He even pays for haircuts if his tennis players cannot afford them. Mr. Papianou also runs the school's intramural program, hosting Kan Jam, Cribbage, Pickle Ball, Ping Pong, Disk Golf, and Volleyball tournaments. 

Mr. Papianou has been working on his adaptive Physical Education (PE) certification. This is an area of physical education he is very passionate about, and an area where he works to include all students. His Jump Start program is made up of students in the Life Skills special education program, and it gets them ready to be included in mainstream PE classes. Mr. Papianou has taught many teens how to bike in this program and has even gotten a non-verbal student to talk to him during PE class. He learns the specific needs of every Jump Start student and makes sure he does something to meet those needs, whether it's bringing in sunglasses for a student who has difficulty on bright days, or bringing his dog on hikes if a student needs a dog to focus on while in the woods. These are just some examples of how Mr. Papianou works to learn the needs of each child and meet them. He makes sure all of his kids are successful. 

Mr. Papianou has presented his golfing, biking, and skateboarding units at state PE conferences. He has worked with the state during the pandemic to inventory outdoor learning spaces and encourage students and teachers to get outside. His work was highlighted by the Maine Department of Education last spring in their newsletter. 

"You will not find a more dedicated or passionate PE teacher in Maine," said Wilson. "Todd loves what he does, and everything is about his students. He is the epitome of a LifeChanger."