Brooklyn College School of Education alumna Sasha Roopchand ’16 teaches health care and physical education alongside math and reading, believes working with her students and families comes first.

This summer, Sasha Roopchand ’16, a physical education teacher at the Brooklyn Green School won a Big Apple Award—one of 20 exceptional teachers to receive the honor this year out of thousands nominated across the city. Her success can be tied to her effort to make sure that physical education and health are taught as core subject.

“Sasha is like no other physical education teacher I have ever met,” Brooklyn Green School principal Marcella Carr-Gay said about the award. “She works diligently to change the narrative that physical education teachers are focused solely on physical education. She is a teacher of math and literacy, a leader in social emotional learning, instructional-minded, and scholarly.”

Roopchand is a member of the math, literacy, and school leadership teams at her school, among other roles. Her work with her students extends beyond the classroom to include their families, and for all of her experience she is clear about the fundamentals: “Students do not care about how much a teacher knows until they have learned how much a teacher cares.”

BC: Congratulations on your Big Apple Teaching Award. Can you tell us a bit about how you will use the grant money that comes with it?

SR: There are grants that come along with the award that I will be able to use to fund and enhance my students’ learning experience and continue to build a strong physical education program. The award has also brought more attention to the school, more parents and other folks are reaching out to become involved.

BC: What do you like most about being a physical education teacher?

SR: Teaching the students about the importance of practicing healthy habits and fitness, along with math and literacy is something that I am very passionate about. I like the freedom, flexibility, and trust and the support that Principal Marcella Car-Gay has in me. She understands my vision, to change how people think of physical education. In the end, I want to make sure that my students have all the opportunities they can before they go off to high school and out into the world.

BC: It must have been tough teaching physical education during the pandemic.

SR: No, but the kids rely on you to be reliable. Even during difficult times you have to be an example for them, show teamwork, be dependable, be open to their feedback. Working remotely and keeping my students’ wellbeing at the fore was at times hard work.

BC: What made you decide to choose Brooklyn College and pursue physical education?

SR: In high school I studied architecture, and realized that it wasn’t for me, so that is when I decided to explore and change my career plans to physical education. I decided to attend Brooklyn college because the diversity and culture there is amazing! As a Trinidadian, Brooklyn College made me feel very at home. It has a great physical education teaching program, and that was something that I was interested in studying. I am a big fan of sports and was also given the opportunity to play volleyball for the school. And I enjoyed working with kids and was passionate about fitness.

Being a student-athlete taught me transferable skills, such as the importance of being reliable, resilient, being a team player, being able to juggle multiple tasks, showing up on time, and most of all discipline. These are all things that have helped me with my teaching career. My coaches gave me the opportunity to grow and shape who I am as a person.

Laura Blitzer [lecturer, secondary education] played an integral role throughout my time at Brooklyn College. She would always tell me that I would excel in teaching, and has continued to encourage me and give me confidence. I was a volunteer in the Peer Health Exchange club at the college, which is a health-education program where we do volunteer work at different high schools throughout the city. In the physical education teaching program, I was trained in classroom management, and I have brought this all to my students and classroom. The program truly paved the way for me.