When it comes to teaching physical education, Jeremiah Oyetunji has one mission - physical literacy.
“I want all of the students to be physically literate,” Oyetunji said.
That, he explained, does not mean they have to be star athletes.
However, it does mean they understand what it takes to take care of themselves physically and to maintain an active lifestyle that helps maintain good health.
Originally from Miami, Fla., Oyetunji came to Minnesota to play football and started at Ridgewater College. When that program ended, Oyetunji transferred to Southwest Minnesota State University where he earned his degree in physical education.
Oyetunji said one of his mentors had a connection to the state through the Minnesota Vikings, and he convinced Oyetunji to come north.
Despite the colder weather, Oyetunji said he really likes being here.
In his first full-time role as an educator, Oyetunji is working with students in Grades K-4 at Reede Gray Elementary School.
Each day he works with groups of students for about half an hour, and during that time he introduces them to different activities as a way to help them find something they enjoy doing. After all, a student who finds a physical activity they enjoy is much more likely to stay active.
Oyetunji said he opted to get involved in education for a simple reason. He likes kids and has a passion for helping them to be healthy.
Oyetunji said his goal is to make connections with students.
Growing up, Oyetunji said he has lived on both sides of the tracks, adding he knows what it means to have everything you need and to live from day to day not knowing for sure if all of his needs will be met.
“I think that helps me relate to a lot of different kids,” he said, adding he can literally tell them he understands where they are coming from and can be there to help.
Oyetunji said he really enjoys working with the youngest students in school, adding they come in with so much energy. His mission is to channel that energy in ways that help them grow not only physically but mentally as well.
“It is fun to watch them learn,” he said.
Prior to coming to Redwood Falls, Oyetunji was living in Lamberton and served as a substitute teacher in a number of area school districts.
Oyetunji said he is grateful that he has the chance to serve in the role he has and takes what he does and the difference he can make very seriously.
Yes, agreed Oyetunji, coming from Miami to Minnesota was a bit of a culture shock, but he said he really appreciates the slower lifestyle in rural Minnesota compared to the chaos of the big city.
In addition to teaching physical education, Oyetunji had the chance this fall to coach middle-school football players. While he said he knows that role means teaching those athletes the fundamentals of the game, there is also an important role in helping them be model citizens in life beyond football.
“I want to help them be good young men,” Oyetunji said.
Oyetunji and his wife, Yvonne, who works in the airline industry, have two sons.
When he is not working in the gym or the football field, Oyetunji said he enjoys traveling, fishing, playing video games, reading, working out and spending time with his family teaching his sons the importance of physical literacy to be good young men.
For Oyetunji, things have been going very well at Reede Gray, as he works with the students and the staff.