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School Specialty’s Sportime and SPARK Celebrate 25 Years of Honoring Top Physical Educators With Teacher of the Year Award Sponsorship

School Specialty’s Sportime and SPARK Celebrate 25 Years of Honoring Top Physical Educators With Teacher of the Year Award Sponsorship

Six Extraordinary Teachers to be Recognized at the SHAPE America Hall of Fame Banquet at the 2014 AAHPERD National Convention & Expo

GREENVILLE, Wis., March 31, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sportime and SPARK, the premier physical education brands of School Specialty Inc. (OTCQB:SCOO) (“School Specialty” or “the Company”), a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace, will be celebrating the Silver Jubilee sponsorship of the District and National Physical Education Teachers of the Year (TOY) at the annual American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) National Convention and Expo taking place April 1-5, 2014 in St. Louis, MO.

For the last 25 years, Sportime/SPARK/School Specialty in conjunction with AAHPERD, has served as an exclusive sponsor in recognizing outstanding teaching performance and ability to motivate today’s youth to participate in a lifetime of physical activity — making it one of the longest running sponsorships in the physical education field. Since its inception in 1989, Sportime/SPARK has supported the Teacher of the Year program with more than $1.3 million in direct corporate sponsorships.

Duane Puckett, School Specialty’s South Regional Vice President commented, “Over the past 25 years Sportime, SPARK and School Specialty have been proud to exclusively sponsor the AAHPERD Physical Education Teacher of the Year awards. This long-standing partnership demonstrates our commitment to promoting quality instructional practices in physical education and providing state-of-the-art, age-appropriate equipment and solutions. It is truly our honor to be associated with AAHPERD in supporting schools and students and of course, recognizing today’s best PE educators. We trust that our continued involvement will help to advance the Teacher of the Year program and nurture tomorrow’s instructional leaders.”

To help celebrate the quarter-century mark as the leading sponsor, Sportime/SPARK will be presenting one previous Teacher of the Year honoree with $2,500 in products for their school or a school of their choice if they are not presently teaching. Every past District Teacher of the Year for adapted, dance, health and physical education attending the Hall of Fame Banquet at the AAHPERD National Convention, will be entered in the drawing. The lucky Teacher of the Year will be drawn following the announcement of the new 2014 National Teachers of the Year.

“On behalf of physical education teachers across the country, I would like to thank Sportime/SPARK for their unwavering commitment to physical education over the past 25 years,” stated E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AAHPERD which is newly named the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America). “Sportime/SPARK’s devotion to the professional development of physical education teachers over all these years has been fantastic. Through their efforts, hundreds of thousands of physical educators have improved their knowledge and skills. It is a true honor to have Sportime/SPARK as a partner in this venture. We look forward to partnering for many more years to come in our combined efforts to support the field of physical education.”

In sharing some of their transformative experiences, past Teachers of the Year John Hichwa (1993) and Mary Hirt (2002 and 2003) commented:

I taught for 35 years as a physical education teacher in the K-8 setting and always promoted the importance of physical education and integrating it into the school culture. The TOY program provided the opportunities to interact with thousands of teachers and share my knowledge and skills. Throughout my career I had the privilege to present at more than 650 locations — traveling to 49 US states as well as France, Portugal, Singapore, Japan, India, and Bermuda. I’m especially proud to have had the opportunity to advance the PE program at the John Read Middle School which remains at a very high standard today, as well as the opportunity to start the Project Adventure program in Redding, CT which received national recognition. The real winners have been the students and I’m so happy to have been a part of transforming their lives.

John Hichwa (TOY 1993)

The Teacher of the Year honors, in particular, have offered me the opportunities to share ideas, exchange practices and learn from my peers — it has been an extremely rewarding experience. The ability to meet like-minded professionals has and continues to fill my tank of creativity and pushes my skills to become an even better educator. I continue to engage with my colleagues to drive enhancements at our larger school and district level; to experiment with new curriculum, practices and teaching strategies that reach more students; and to incorporate technology into instruction and for student access to content. I’m honored to have received the Awards and the chance to make a difference in children’s lives.

Mary Hirt (TOY 2002 & 2003)

Mr. Puckett continued, “To the hundreds of outstanding state, district and national Elementary, Middle School, High School, Dance and Adapted Teachers of the Year who have been so deserving of this recognition since 1989, we thank you each personally. Thanks for your passion to improve the health of our nation’s kids. Thanks for your professionalism and focus on elevating best practices. Thanks for being the role models and mentors that you are and for conveying the passion to excel to the outstanding physical educators of the next generation.”

More than 5,000 health, physical education, recreation, dance, and sport professionals are expected to attend the 2014 AAHPERD National Convention & Expo, which will showcase 200 leading product and service providers that offer a full spectrum of resources and innovative ideas to the industry. Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be this year’s special guest and will be inducted into the AAHPERD Hall of Fame. For more information on AAHPERD and the Convention, please visit

About Sportime, SPARK and School Specialty, Inc.

Sportime and SPARK are the two premier physical education brands of School Specialty, Inc., a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace. School Specialty designs, develops, and provides educators with the latest and very best school supplies, furniture and both curriculum and supplemental learning resources. Working in collaboration with educators, the Company reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. For more information about School Specialty and its brands, visit

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