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Olympic Values in Gym Class
By By Sean Coffey, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Steve Sloan (left) and Sean Coffey
Steve Sloan (left) and Kid Reporter Sean Coffey
(Photo: Wayne Coffey)
Steve Sloan is the physical education teacher at Public School 102 in East Harlem, New York. He's a 50-year old man with a bald head and bulging muscles. He can hit three-pointers and even half court shots, but the amazing thing is that he can't see them go in.

Steve Sloan has been blind since birth. But the fact he can't see has never stopped Sloan, who works out seven days a week and treats his blindness as if it were nothing more than a stubbed toe.

"You can't sit in the corner and sulk," says Sloan. "That's the easy way out."

Sloan has been working at P.S. 102 for 21 years and counting. He is making his first trip abroad this month to Torino, Italy, to carry the Olympic torch. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will cherish forever," he says.

Torchbearer

The Olympic torch took off on its 7,021.5-mile trip through 140 Italian cities on December 8. It will reach the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics during the opening ceremonies on February 10. More than 10,000 people who represent Olympic values will take part in the torch run.

Sloan in many ways matches the profile of an Olympic athlete, who displays the values of unity and peace among peoples, loyalty, courage, humanity, and solidarity. His values are reflected in his close relationships with his students.

The Personal Touch

Sloan has nicknames for every kid. Some of them include Hot Sauce, Beetles, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Biscuit, and WNBA. He is strict—if you aren't wearing sneakers and sweatpants or shorts, you aren't allowed to participate in gym—but to the students it just shows how much he cares about them.

"He makes coming to gym so much fun," said Christina (Hot Sauce) Perez.

One amazing fact about Sloan is that he can guide you around the school without his walking stick. He knows every hallway, door, and floor in the five-story school by heart. He takes the subway train to work every day. If there is an emergency in the school, Lorenzo Cowell, Sloan's assistant, makes sure that everyone is safe. Otherwise, Sloan is totally self-sufficient. When you sit in his office and look at his stocky build inside a gray and black warmup suit, it's easy to forget that he can't see.


Photos, left to right: © Rick Rickman/NewSport/NewSport/Corbis; © Joe Cavaretta/AP Wide World.