Mr. P lifts up student body


Photo by Gabe Kedziora

Pligge casually deadlifting more than 400 pounds

One of the most welcome additions to OPRF’s staff this year is P.E. teacher James Pligge. Pligge started out as a part time substitute teacher, but he now teaches P.E. full time. He has quickly developed a reputation among the students as an welcoming and easygoing teacher who likes to engage his students.

“I think (Pligge) has good music taste, he doesn’t get mad about anything, and he’s chill,” said junior Jackson Davis.

Physical health has been a part of Pligge’s life for a long time. He always enjoyed biking, running and lifting weights. His father played college basketball, which helped spark his interest in fitness and sports. He also collects basketball cards, and maintains a sizable collection. In addition to teaching P.E. classes, Pligge runs the intramural powerlifting club. Pligge is 36 years old and has been lifting for 22 years.

Pligge is known for engaging students in the classroom by hyping up students when they do well, and encouraging them to try their best. “(Pligge) is friendly, and if he sees you’re not trying (in class) he’ll try to push you but he won’t force you to play,” says Davis.

He often organizes tournaments between different teams of students in his P.E classes, and awards the winners with prizes. The winners of one of his basketball tournaments were awarded with candy, miniature trophies, and basketball cards from Pligge’s personal collection.

Pligge taught Davis as the long-term substitute in his first semester boys team sports class. Davis enjoyed Pligge’s personality and style of teaching. “I liked how Mr. Pligge listened to everybody and gave us choices on what to do,” Davis said. Students were able to choose between floor hockey, badminton, and basketball.

In Davis’s previous PE classes, he was often bored. “I feel like the teacher would just stand there and take attendance. Then go tell us to go play, or do whatever we want. I ended up waiting for it to be over,” said Davis. In contrast, Pligge has a much more involved approach during his students’ classes. “Whenever someone would score in basketball he would hype us up or cheer us on,” said Davis.

Pligge sees a lack of engagement as a fixable problem. “I think one way to make things interesting is to keep it competitive and offer some sort of incentive to the students to do well, aside from just grades. Another way to get students more involved is having them pick an activity of their choice once a week. This allows for a compromise and then everyone is happy,” said Pligge.

Pligge’s powerlifting club meets twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school in the weight room. The club has between 10 and 12 attendees per week.

One member of the powerlifting intramural, Faris Dispensa, appreciates Pligge’s experience, guidance and approachability as a teacher. “Since he shares a lot about his powerlifting experience, I have a lot of trust in him,” said Dispensa. Dispensa also likes that Pligge is flexible when teaching intramural powerlifting. Pligge is willing to instruct Dispensa on a different technique or exercise during the meet, even if it was not planned for that day.

Pligge is certainly creating a reputation among his students as an approachable teacher who enjoys teaching. His passion in the classroom is shown through his engagement during class and effort he puts into teaching.

“In high school, I think the positive experiences that you remember are the little things that might have made you smile, even for a day. I know for most, winning a PE tournament is not the staple of their lives, but I am trying to (help) students (make) memories,” said Pligge.