Jewel Lehman

Associate Professor of Physical Education

BS, Eastern Mennonite University, 1987
MS, James Madison University, 1994
EdD, University of North Carolina Greensboro, 2003

WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?

When I was really young I wanted to be a nurse. As I grew, I became aware that my phobia of needles and my queasy stomach might present some barriers for me in that line of work. I was also drawn to the teaching profession at a young age, although I was fairly shy. In high school, my experiences in physical education and organized athletics contributed greatly to the development of confidence and self-worth. During this time, my passion for physical activity, sport and wellness grew.

WHY OR HOW DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR FIELD?

Sport and exercise have influenced my life in profound ways and greatly increased the quality of my life.  As a first year student in college, I chose to major in physical education because I wanted to teach and coach.  It seemed quite natural for me to begin to mentor, coach and teach others as I continued sport participation in college.  In later years, graduate study gave me the opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation for the scientific study of human movement as a discipline.

WHAT’S EXCITING ABOUT YOUR JOB OR THIS FIELD?

I enjoy working with athletes, but I also gain satisfaction from my job when adults or children who do not consider themselves to be “athletes” discover the benefits of regular exercise and/or recreational sport participation.

I love studying human movement including aspects related to exercise and sport performance.  The variety of perspectives represented in the sub-disciplines and the expansion of knowledge in the field and in education keep me from getting bored even after twenty years.

I feel privileged to work with college-age students and to push them as they evolve into fitness leaders, teachers, and coaches.  One of my favorite roles is in mentoring physical education student teachers each fall. While student teaching is challenging and intense, it is amazing to be a part of this transformative process.

WHAT HAS BEEN A STRUGGLE IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY?

I have to continually remind myself to take time to focus on what I value the most at work and at home. A healthy balance in life doesn’t just happen, it is a result of daily specific intention and wellness work. At times, I am not very good at maintaining the balance but I realize when I do, I am happy and productive.

WHAT GREAT ADVICE HAVE YOU BEEN GIVEN?

A mentor has helped me understand that I am a better servant-leader when I take care of myself. The key is to hold what I need and what others need gently together in my hands and to find ways to honor both at the same time. Some days I am able to do this well and other days I struggle.

WHAT ARE YOU REALLY PROUD OF? (IN A MENNONITE, HUMBLE SORT OF WAY, OF COURSE)

I greatly appreciate the educational opportunities I have had and the people who have enabled me to get where I am. Oral comprehensive exams and the dissertation in my doctoral program were rigorous and challenging but I gained so much from these experiences. I’ve worked very hard to expand my career opportunities and I am proud of my ability to push myself. I will not forget that my success is largely due to the support of my family as well as key advisors and mentors along the way.

I am proud when I see graduates (former students) making a positive impact in the world. While they have done the work, I have had a bit of influence in their lives and that makes me feel worthwhile.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG PERSON JUST STARTING OUT

I would encourage young people to volunteer and to work very hard doing what they want for their career even if they don’t get paid very much. Experience is so valuable in the learning process. If you are dependable, work very hard and you learn, opportunities may arise because you have gained trust and respect from others.

Take advantage of opportunities you might have even if you have to move and even if they take you out of your comfort zone a bit.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

I continue to learn and I think I am more effective as a teacher, mentor and leader now than before. I look back and realize that there are many things that could have been done better, when at the time, I thought I was pretty good at my job. I accept my own development at each stage along the way and I realize that years from now, I will be even better if I can continue to learn and grow from my experiences.

I can’t think of regrets in terms of my professional career decisions. In some past jobs, I have worked long hours for low pay, but I wanted the experience so the low pay was accepted at the time. These experiences were beneficial to me even if I did not make a lot of money so I do not regret exploring career opportunities.