It’s 7:55 a.m. on a Friday morning. A student is running down Chambers street, frantically trying to get to school on time. He doesn’t have a history test first period, or a chemistry quiz that he’s going to miss, but he knows he can’t be late. Instead, he has to face physical education teacher Dr. Anna Markova.
Dr. Markova doesn’t think she’s harsh on her students. She just wants her students to recognize the importance of fitness. “I’m not really a strict teacher. It’s just that I care. I want all my students to comprehend what they are doing and how important it is,” Dr. Markova said.
Dr. Markova has always valued fitness and well-being. Even as a child, Dr. Markova was always playing sports. She used to play volleyball and table tennis, run for track, and go skiing.
She attributes this physical activity to the knowledge of how important the body is. “I compare maintaining your body to maintaining your car. When you don’t take care of it, you have to go to the repair shop all the time,” Dr. Markova said. “Eventually, if your car gets damaged enough, you have to dump the car. Unfortunately, you can’t actually dump your body. You have to live with it your entire life.”
Along with her passion for fitness, she’s wanted to be a teacher since high school. Dr. Markova has always wanted to spread her knowledge and really improve the lives of not only her students, but also the lives of those that she doesn’t teach, through her students.“It’s a very rewarding profession, and that’s why being a teacher is where I felt like my place really was.”
After earning her Ph. D in the treatment of disabled patients, Dr. Markova was able to combine her dream profession with her greatest passion. She first taught physical education in Slovakia as a college professor.
One day, one of Dr. Markova’s colleagues told her about the Department of Education’s International Program Exchange. It offered her a chance to teach in one of New York City’s public high schools. The program brought people from Europe to high schools in New York City in order to bring a new approach to education into the United States. When the Exchange eventually offered her a job to teach in New York City, she jumped.
Dr. Markova explains that the decision to leave her home country was not an easy one. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anyone where I was going. I didn’t know who I was going to teach. I didn’t even know where I was going to live,” Dr. Markova said.
Despite all of these uncertainties, Dr. Markova still decided to accept the opportunity to teach in the United States. She says that teaching in the United States helped her learn more about the variety of ways that physical education can be taught.
Improving her English was another important reason as to why she made her decision.“When you go to a conference, no matter where you go, even in a country like France, the conference language is always English,” Dr. Markova said.
When she first taught in America, the Department of Education’s program only gave her a chance to teach at an underperforming school. She didn’t want to stay there for long. She hoped to teach in one of New York’s best schools. “In a school like Stuyvesant, the students can really use what we teach them and spread the wealth of education and good that they learn,” Dr. Markova said.
After years of networking, Dr. Markova was able to find work teaching at Aviation High School. While teaching at Aviation, she applied to be the coach of Stuyvesant’s girls’ track and field team. She was accepted as a coach because of her previous experience coaching track and field in college and running on her school’s Track and Field team in high school.
It was difficult for Dr. Markova to do this, because she had to make her way from Queens every day to coach for the team. Eventually, the former Assistant Principal offered her a job.
Even after achieving her goal, Dr. Markova is still not ready to settle in. She hopes that involving herself with the Stuyvesant community outside of just class will enable her to better promote well-being. Dr. Markova still coaches the girls’ track and field team at Stuyvesant and is very proud of her team. “All of my athletes are very driven. I really admire that they are able to manage school, other after school activities, and be able to commit so much time to the team. I don’t know how they do it,” Dr. Markova said.
Dr. Markova is also the faculty advisor of The Wellness Council which hopes to make Stuyvesant a healthier place. At Stuyvesant, students tend to neglect their own health in place of academic success. “Students pile on a lot of school work just because they want to be successful on an academic level. They are forgetting about themselves and their well-being,” Dr. Markova said.
Dr. Markova believes that neglecting our bodies inhibits our academic performance as well. She believes physical education and academic success go hand and hand. “After exercising, you’ll see that you have more energy, and you’ll be in a better mood most of the time,” Dr. Markova said. “This is why you see more corporations offering their employees wellness programs. They understand that if their employees are healthy, then they will be more productive and have better attendance.”
Dr. Markova believes that another way to promote well-being to her students is to get them to enjoy it. She wants to give everyone the opportunity to really enjoy physical education by offering a larger variety of things to do and classes to take. ”We are moving from more traditional physical education classes to more unique ones like aerobic yoga, spinning, and [rollerblading],” Dr. Markova said. “We are introducing students to new things so that they can experience everything. [For example,] There are so many people who don’t know what spinning is, but they found out that they really do like it.”
At the end of the day, Dr. Markova hopes that she can do her part in uplifting the student body. “The students here are the ones that need to be educated the most in wellness, because they are going to be helping to make this world better.”