PE with a Passion

Tyler Heidtke’s New Impact on Parker’s Athletics


Photo credit: Ava Ori

Mr. Heidtke talks with two of his players, Daniel Mansueto and Bodie Florsheim.

Brand new Physical Education teacher Tyler Heidtke already has experience under his belt. Heidtke has a Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Management degree from the University of Illinois along with a K-12 PE Teaching Certificate and Health Endorsements from Northeastern Illinois University. He previously taught in the Evanston School District and most recently was at The Joseph Sears School, a K-8 school in Kenilworth.

Not only is he vastly experienced, but he also takes what he does personally. “I have always been involved in sports and really fell in love with teaching sports when I was playing and coaching rugby in college,” Heidtke said. “I think PE differs from other subjects in that you learn how to take care of your body through different games and activities that you can do throughout your entire life.” 

It’s not just the physical aspect that drew him to this job. “I have and currently live in Chicago and was interested in applying to Parker because it is closer to where I live, among a myriad of other reasons, and is located in one of the best areas of Chicago,” Heidtke said. 

A lot stuck out about Parker to Heidtke. “Though I appreciate the entirety of the Parker Mission, the two components that stick out the most to me are Relationships and Community, and Openness and Growth,” Heidtke said. “Those values tell me that Parker strives, as a collective, to lead the charge in change, whether it be social, societal, or cultural, for the better and that, to truly progress, it is important to be willing to “engage in healthy, nuanced discussion and persevere with integrity when complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity challenge us.’” Heidtke said. “I couldn’t have said that quote better myself.” 

Although Heidtke is impressed by Parker’s mission and values, within the PE department he sees room to grow. “Some of the best learning occurs when we step outside of our comfort zone, which is why I would love to implement an Adventure Education class sometime in the near future,” Heidtke said. “The PE program at Parker is an outstanding program. If there were an area of improvement I would say that more space would be great. Then again, every PE teacher wants more space.” 

Another idea of his that would shake up the PE curriculum involves climbing. “It would be really cool to get a top-rope rock climbing wall and high ropes course here at Parker,” Heidtke said. “Both of those elements would make an Adventure Ed class pretty awesome.”

Heidtke can be found coaching soccer, running one of the schools numerous PE classes, or playing a sport, usually rugby, on his own. Heidtke sets an example he hopes to teach others to follow. “To this day I play a number of recreational sports to stay active and hope that I convince others to do the same,” Heidtke said.

Heidtke started playing rugby in college at the University of Illinois. It was something new to him and he approached it with some caution. “I hadn’t played before, but was asked by a buddy of mine to go to the first practice,” Heidtke said. “I was a bit hesitant as I am a bit smaller than the ideal rugby build, but I didn’t get severely injured after the first few practices and immediately fell in love with the sport and rugby culture as a whole.”

Although he is still not deeply committed to the sport, it remains a hobby of his. “I don’t play rugby union, the 15-on-15, tackling/painful version of rugby anymore, but currently play with the Chicago Touch Rugby Club,” Heidtke said. “It is a lot more friendly to my body.”

He left a serious impression on two boys not on his JV White team, but in the school’s soccer program. Lucas Daskal, a freshman playing soccer on Parker’s JV Blue team, describes Heidtke as “very passionate about what he does and his intentions, and he cares a lot about his team.”

“He has a tough and challenging coaching approach, and always will teach us why we are doing the drill, and what the purpose of it is, Daskal said. “His impact on me has been really positive so far and he has taught me a lot about soccer.” 

“He lets you know if you do something wrong and how to make it better,” freshman Charles Fardon, a player on Parker’s Varsity soccer team, said.“and I think he’s definitely given tips on hustle and endurance that I use daily” 

“He is a very helpful coach specifically in the way in which he explains things with a high level of detail,” freshman Rocque Lipford, a player on Heidtke’s JV White soccer team, said. “This helps people understand the purpose of why that change and that helps people translate it to playing the game effectively. The suggestions he makes do apply to the games.” 

Another athlete on Heitdke’s JV White team has similar opinions on Heidtke as a coach. Sophomore Cooper Bruce describes Heitdke’s personality as “really nice, I love working with him. He’s upfront and not willing to hold back when coaching. He’s impacted my skills positively, and of course, his coaching helps up win games and helps out the team to do well.” 

An additional aspect of Heidtke’s work life is teaching gym. He is currently running “Survey of Team Sports”, a PE class in which you play various team sports. The class is currently focused on football. “He’s chill, he’s nice, he keeps the class loose, but fun. He also knows how to control the class. We are doing touch football. Every day we meet up, he greets us, we play football, and then he dismisses us. We just play a game. I enjoy the class a lot. I had a decision because I was switching PE and I chose this class,” Nate Manilow, a student in the class, said. 

Heidtke takes on another responsibility outside of athletics. He is an advisor. His advisory consists only of freshman boys, some of which he coaches. “He’s pretty good, he’s helpful, but there are some things he can’t help us with because he’s new, but that’s not his fault,” Kai Contractor, an advisee and team member of his said “In the beginning of the week I had a scheduling trouble, and he had some trouble figuring it out, but eventually got it. He listens to what we want to do, and even set up an app that allows us to communicate with him.”. 

Heidkeworks at being active within his advisory and has noticed a common interest of rugby with his advisees. “During advisory, we went to 7/11 twice, and we play sports which is fun,” Contractor said.“I look forward to getting along with the boys and talking about rugby and other sports stuff. He tells us scores of rugby games, which are at weird times, sometimes 2 a.m. He’s taught me a lot about maintaining focus ‘on and off the pitch.’ He’s a good role model, and is adjusting well to the new environment.”