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Coronavirus Bay Area: Peninsula PE teacher motivates kids through Instagram, celebrity videos


PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) — A remarkable teacher on the Peninsula is using Instagram and some star power to get his students excited to learn during the shelter-in-place at home.

Principal Marciela Montoy-Wilson of East Palo Alto Charter School beams with pride when describing her staff’s relationship with their 450 students during the coronavirus outbreak.

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“I honestly tear up every single day thinking about parents being so resilient and I think it all comes back to the connection and love we feel. Such a deep connection and love for our students and families,” said Principal Montoy-Wilson.

That connection is certainly being shown on the school’s Instagram page where you’ll see a tremendous amount of daily content- spanning from kids doing push-ups to showing off their artwork and more.

You can thank PE teacher Stephen Ashford for that.

For 20 years Mr. Steve, as he’s known to his kids, has kept kids motivated at school and has now taken over the school’s Instagram so kids can stay motivated at home.

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“I love my job. I feel like I have the best job in the world. I tell people I have fun playing!” says Mr. Steve with a smile.

Part of that motivation is coming from the more than 100 celebrities and athletes Mr. Steve reached out to. Videos have poured in from 49ers star Nick Bosa to Cedric the Entertainer and even basketball hall of fame Lisa Leslie and more.
It’s a lesson in learning to ask.

“Closed mouth doesn’t get fed!” jokes Mr. Steve.

What is apparent: Mr. Steve’s passion for passing on positive vibes during this challenging time goes far beyond messages from celebrities. It’s engaging kids with push up challenges to win prizes like books. It’s by sharing their own throwback photos and encouraging others to share slices of their life too.

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Has this one message for the kids and families that have brought him as much joy as he’s brought them.

“Without the staff I work with and the families I work with…they’re keeping me going. I’d like to thank all of them. without the families, there’s no Mr. Steve.”

The school is also planning to keep that sense of community going with a social distancing parade for the kids, driving through neighborhoods, honking horns, holding up signs on Monday.

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