Brockberg wins SHAPE

Sarah Brockberg, a Pipestone County native currently living and working in Falcon, Colo., was the recipient of the National Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) 2023 Central District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award. Photo contributed by Colorado District 49 social media

Where are they now?

Day in and day out, those who have graduated from Pipestone Area Schools make a difference in the lives of those around them. Sometimes, they venture out past the county line and experience the unusual and interesting world we live in. Some never really leave, or perhaps come back to build a life and a family, and others just visit from time-to-time to catch up with those they love. Whatever the case, those people have roots or connections tying them to the area. This series will run periodically to bring their stories to you, so that we may all share in the joy, trials and experiences lived by our neighbors. If you know someone whose story might be of interest to our readers, please let us know by calling 507-825-3333 or emailing

Recently, Sarah Brockberg, a Pipestone native and 1998 graduate of Pipestone-Jasper High School, who lives in Colorado, was honored as one of four recipients of the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) 2023 Adapted Physical Education District Teacher of the Year Award, at the SHAPE America National Convention in Seattle.

According to the Colorado Department of Education’s website, adapted physical education (PE) is provided to students whose needs cannot be sufficiently addressed in a regular physical education program. An adapted physical education teacher is an educationally trained professional that is capable of assessing students as individuals, and developing, adapting and implementing specialized physical education programs in the motor function domain of the human body.

Brockberg’s interest in physical education was initially sparked, she said, through the mentoring of her school’s athletic director and track coach.

“Growing up and having the late Mr. [Bob] Nangle as a mentor, I knew I wanted to obtain a degree as an athletic director,” she said.

After graduating high school, she pursued her passion, attending Mankato State University (now known as the Minnesota State University, Mankato) on a track scholarship for two years, before transferring to Southwest Minnesota State University where she graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in teaching kindergarten through 12th grade health and physical education. Shortly after that, she was offered a teaching position in Fountain, Colo., at the Fountain-Fort Carson High School. There, she taught swimming, health and physical education. She also coached in the areas of swimming, tennis, volleyball, and track and field, and served as the assistant coach for the Air Force Women’s Gymnastics Team.

Not losing sight of her goal, Brockberg applied to the athletic administration program at the University of Northern Colorado and was accepted in 2005. In 2006 she graduated with her degree and welcomed her first born daughter, Kyra. Shortly after her birth, Kyra was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Brockberg’s sister, Erin Brockberg, lived in Colorado and provided care for Kyra until Erin moved back to Minnesota in 2011. Her daughter, Brockberg said, was her ‘why’ in pursuing a masters in developmental adapted physical education.

“Having Kyra and her diagnosis changed my path,” she said. “And in 2009, I went back and applied for graduate school through the Minnesota State University, Mankato, to get my masters.”

Sarah Brockberg (right) with her daughter Kyra Brockberg (left) at the top of Mt. Elbert in Colorado in August of 2022. Brockberg used a Jolette one wheel hiking chair during a hike to the peak of Mt. Elbert with friends, so that Kyra could see the view. Mt. Elbert is the highest peak on the Rocky Mountains. Photo contributed by Sarah Brockberg

Graduating in 2011, Brockberg resigned from her position at Fountain-Fort Carson High School. After moving to Falcon, Colo., Brockberg decided to take some time off from teaching to care for Kyra’s medical needs. Once Kyra’s condition started to stabilize, Brockberg decided to take a substitute teaching position in School District 49, where Kyra attended school. In 2017, the adapted physical education position opened up in the district and Brockberg was selected for the job that covers every middle school and high school in the district.

Aside from the motivation to provide opportunities for students like Kyra, Brockberg said her love of sports was another reason why she decided to enter this field.

“I love sports and introducing many different kinds to others,” she said. “Whether it is lifetime, individual or dual activities or Special Olympics or Paralympic Sports. The more activities students are around or introduced to, the more people are physically literate individuals who will make healthy choices in the future. This helps decrease a lot of health issues. There is something for everyone.”

Part of Brockberg’s adapted PE program is a class she started called ‘Partners in PE Class,’ where students with disabilities are partnered up with typical peers. The partners will participate side by side in the activity and skills, assisting the students with disabilities as needed, she said.

“It is usually a one-on-one setting,” Brockberg said. “And sometimes with students who have more severe disabilities, they will usually be assigned two peers. The PE teacher at the school will teach the lessons, I help to support students and modify the activities and curriculum.”

The curriculum is the same for every class and at the end of each unit, Brockberg tries to put on an event for the students to showcase what they learned with their partners and compete with other schools in the district. The 2022-2023 school year was the first year of putting on sporting events, Brockberg said. This school year, a variety of events have been held in the district to provide opportunities to students.

“For this school year I have put on a cross country meet and basketball tournament, and will finish the year with a track and field event in May,” she said. “These events are great for all who participate. The students get to know what it is like to compete and be a part of a school team, and the partners get to see the joy and skills come together that they have worked with their student on. It is changing the culture of the schools and the students with disabilities are getting noticed in the halls, and included.”

Sarah Brockberg (center) assists a student during the District 49 Adapted Athletic Basketball Tournament at Sandcreek High School in Colorado Springs in March. Photo contributed by Sarah Brockberg

Receiving the award, Brockberg said, has opened a network in the field for her, and has given her the opportunity to continue to strive to be a better teacher and advocate for her students in the world of PE and the field of adapted PE. The experience and award has left Brockberg humbled and honored, she said, but the credit she believes goes to her daughter and the kids she works with.

“The kids and my daughter are how I got to where I am, and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “There is always room for improvement and inclusion. Someone has to take the first step. If I didn’t do it no one would and all the students deserve opportunities. Like I tell my daughter, you don’t have to like it, but you have to try everything once before you decide.”