This is the second article in a series of profiles about each finalist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2021 Citywide Teacher of the Year. The citywide winner will be announced later this spring.
Robert Mages is an adapted physical education (PE) teacher. As an itinerant educator, he provides services to students and support to teachers and staff division wide.
This career path was not one that Mages imagined he would be taking when he got out of the Marines in 2005. An interest in personal training led to studies at ODU, where he was inspired by the national obesity epidemic to get children more active. His first job with VBCPS was at Landstown High School, where he taught adaptive PE as a long-term substitute. A subsequent, permanent substitute position led to his current job at the Special Education Annex.
Along the way, something happened.
“I fell in love with the kids,” he said. “The reason why I’m still here, and why I still do this and haven’t applied to be a high school PE teacher or a middle school PE teacher or an elementary school PE teacher, (is because) I get to develop these relationships with kids. I’ve had students I’ve been with from fourth grade until they graduated high school. I get to transition with students from elementary school to middle school to high school. When they’re in a completely new environment and things are scary for them, I’m that familiar face. It can help them with the transition and access that new PE space.”
Julie Macaluso is a teacher of the visually impaired and a certified orientation and mobility specialist. “Robert is exceptionally gifted at making all students feel comfortable and always maintaining a positive atmosphere,” she said in her recommendation letter to the Teacher of the Year selection committee. “He goes above and beyond to ensure that his lessons are meaningful and designed to meet his student’s needs.”
In addition to his daily work with students, Mages established the very first Little Feet Meet in Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) and continues to manage the annual event. He also facilitated collaboration between multiple schools and Achilles Kids International to encourage VBCPS students’ participation in the Achilles Kids Virtual Marathon. Mages has worked with the staff at the YMCA JT’s Camp Grom to provide opportunities for VBCPS students with disabilities to receive community-based instruction within their facilities. He has also accompanied his students to Equi-Kids therapeutic riding programs in Virginia Beach. He coaches youth sports and conducts a summer physical education program in his neighborhood for children with autism spectrum disorder and their siblings.
For those efforts and more, Mages was named the 2018 Virginia Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
“I believe that every student can learn regardless of their disability, environment or social status,” said Mages. “Sometimes for a student to succeed, they need a teacher who is willing to learn how to teach them.”