Q&A with a Retired Physical Education Teacher

Jinny Mulvey ’68, who graduated with a degree in physical education returned to her hometown, becoming that creative, passionate, enthusiastic teacher you always wished you had.

Brockport taught Virginia (Jinny) Hulshoff Mulvey ’68 teaching fundamentals and gave her leadership opportunities. She took both back to her Lockport, NY, hometown where she taught junior-high and elementary physical education before retiring in 2004.

When did you decide you wanted to become a physical education teacher?

I knew I wanted to teach physical education from an early age. I was athletic and enjoyed a variety of sports. In fact, I remember telling my seventh grade PE teacher I wanted her job. As it turned out, I did replace that teacher. She retired the year I graduated.

What sports did you play in high school?

During the 1960s, there was no Title IX that required school districts to include competitive girls’ sports. Fortunately, my high school had a synchronized swim club. I was a member, and I was hired to coach that club at the same high school when I was hired by the Lockport City School District after graduation.

Why did you choose SUNY Brockport?

Attending Brockport was a logical step as it was an hour drive from Lockport, the price was right—I had three younger siblings who wanted a college education too, and it offered the curriculum I needed to realize my dream. Brockport was a relatively small college, providing smaller class sizes, excellent dorm living, the ability to navigate the campus and downtown Brockport easily, and extra-curricular clubs that were simple to join.

What did you like about Brockport?

My time at Brockport was a wonderful overall experience. In addition to my classes, I participated in many campus activities, including student government and residence life committees, where I experienced new things, and met people from different places. My sophomore roommate and I still keep in touch. We met at Brockport in 2018 to celebrate our 50th class reunion. Junior and senior years I was an RA (Resident Assistant) in the dorms. I still maintain contact with some of those women as well.

I majored in Health and Physical Education, which was a dual major at that time. I focused on physical education. PE classes at Brockport in the 1960s included sports courses worth a quarter-, half- or whole-credit. We attended many Saturday morning classes to meet all requirements.

My student teaching was the first quarter of my junior year. Health and physical education majors were only required to student teach for eight weeks. I took more education courses after I was back on campus. There have been many changes over the past 50 years, and making sure students have completed most of their education classes prior to student teaching as well as increasing the requirement to encompass an entire semester are changes for the better.

What was your first position after graduation?

When I graduated in 1968, I was hired by the Lockport City School District to teach in the junior high school, a great start to my career with the district. I loved that age group; it was both rewarding and challenging to be able to direct those preteen and teenage hormones into positive energy.

In addition to our regular PE curriculum, I provided activities and excursions outside the gymnasium to channel some of the rebellion. The weekends provided us time to take all-day bike rides or bus trips to events, such as the Ice Capades and concerts. A group of girls would volunteer at our nearby assisted-living house and “exercise” with some of the residents. I benefitted from their enthusiasm. Being open to their suggestions for activities provided a path to my life-long learning.

How did you feel about returning to your hometown after graduation?

I married my high school sweetheart, Thomas Mulvey, who graduated from the University of Dayton in elementary education, in 1968. We each taught in the Lockport City School District. Lockport is a wonderful community, and it is where we wanted to raise our family.

While I taught at the junior high, Tom taught at one of the elementary schools in Lockport until earning a position as principal at another elementary school in the district. I left my junior high position after six years to raise our family, one girl and one boy.

During my maternity leave, I continued to coach the Synchronized Swim Club, and I created and taught an Infant and Toddler swim program with the cooperation of the local YMCA. That program is still active today.

What did you enjoy about teaching elementary school physical education?

When I returned to teaching after being out with my children, I was offered a position in an elementary school. Just as I felt my junior high position was what I was meant to do right out of college, I felt that my segue into elementary teaching was what I was meant to do at that time. I loved the diversity of teaching K-5. There is something unique at each grade level. I also found that I enjoyed coordinating the curriculum with the classroom teachers and other special area teachers. It was a fascinating and rewarding experience.

I did simple things like planning activities based on certain letters—“B”ouncing a “B”all, “D”ancing—or reinforcing numbers by jumping rope to a number command in a way that coincided with primary grades’ curriculum. In the upper grades, we coordinated not only higher math activities but also incorporated science—e.g., we had the muscle of the week—and social studies. One coordinated effort involved studying the Underground Railroad. Our classroom and special area teachers received a state award with monetary recognition for our school for that program. Another successful event was Intergenerational Week, where we invited grandparents and/or parents to join their child for a PE class. Everyone played games from past generations, such as hopscotch, tetherball, kite flying, and volleyball. No electronic games were allowed.

How would you describe your overall career?

I was fortunate to enjoy all my years of teaching and coaching. I have a wonderful and supportive husband, encouraging parents and in-laws who all have contributed to who I am. For that, I am grateful. SUNY Brockport played an important role in my love of physical education, fostering my curiosity and willingness to try new things, and creating the opportunity to lead and be led.

How are you spending your retirement?

Tom and I are now retired. We have spent a good part of our time traveling in our RV and abroad (before the pandemic), golfing and kayaking, knowing there is always a new adventure waiting!

We are honored that we have the means and opportunity to provide a scholarship at SUNY Brockport to be awarded to a junior, senior or graduate student, recognizing them for their passion, enthusiasm and creative approach to the rewards and challenges of being a physical education educator.

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Posted: July 25, 2023