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FR teacher named one of nation's tops

| Friday, April 21, 2017, 11:33 a.m.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Physical education teacher Anthony Berardinelli is swarmed by students after receiving a surprise award from Excela Health's Project Fit America at Heritage Elementary School in Murrysville on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Physical education teacher Anthony Berardinelli does the chicken dance with students before receiving a surprise award from Excela Health's Project Fit America at Heritage Elementary School in Murrysville on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

The kindergarten, fourth- and fifth-grade students who mobbed Franklin Regional's Anthony Berardinelli on Thursday could not have cared less that he was the only teacher in the country chosen as a Project Fit America 2016 National All-Star Teacher.

They just love his gym class.

“I'm speechless,” said Berardinelli, 28, of Murrysville, as administrators and Excela Health officials presented him with the award during a surprise assembly.

Excela partnered with Project Fit America to provide more than $53,000 in grant funding to implement “Fitness in Education” programs at schools in the Franklin Regional, Greater Latrobe and Norwin school districts.

“Project Fit America gave us new ways to teach our students lifelong physical fitness while having fun,” said Berardinelli, who is in his fifth year teaching at Franklin Regional. “The goal is to show up good every day, and to get better every day.”

The grant helped Berardinelli start the Heritage Elementary Fitness Club, where he meets with a group of 30 students at 7 a.m. to work out before school.

Heritage Principal Rob Buffone said the award is recognition of the commitment Berardinelli has to his students.

“It's a tremendous honor that we were chosen for this grant,” Buffone said. “And Anthony took it to a whole new level. We have kids coming in before school and staying after school using the fitness equipment. You go around the school and you can see the walls posted with students' goals and achievements.”

As part of the Excela Health-PFA partnership, Franklin Regional received state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment, indoor sports equipment, comprehensive core curriculum and lesson plan resources, as well as on-site training.

Pre- and post-testing since the program launch in 2014 continues to demonstrate Berardinelli's success in the PFA program.

“Any kid can come in here and work out successfully, and that says a lot about who he is,” Buffone said.

Susan Berardinelli said her son loves what he does.

“He comes home talking about school all the time,” she said.

Receiving the grant was already an accomplishment, Buffone told Berardinelli, “and you took it through the roof.”

Project Fit America typically awards multiple U.S. teachers each year. Since its inception in 1999, a single teacher has been chosen only three times before Berardinelli.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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