Recipient of state honor persists despite Harvey setbacks

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Nov. 6, 2017 at 3:21 p.m.
Updated Nov. 7, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Refugio school district physical education teacher Selina Hemphill, 53, blows a whistle to start a game of disc golf. Hemphill was selected as the state's 2017 High School Physical  Education Teacher of the  Year.

Refugio school district physical education teacher Selina Hemphill, 53, blows a whistle to start a game of disc golf. Hemphill was selected as the state's 2017 High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year.   Gabriella Canales for The Victoria Advocate

REFUGIO - Selina Hemphill put a neon orange whistle to her lips, took a deep breathe and blew to signal the start to a game of disc golf.

"This is our gym right now," Hemphill, 53, said, gesturing to the field behind the school. "Every day, it's something different because of the hurricane."

Red umbrellas and orange, pink and yellow flying discs soared against Friday's cloudy but clear skies.

Hemphill, teacher and coach at Refugio High School, was recently selected by the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance as the 2017 High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year.

The process was difficult, Hemphill said, and included writing eight essays and receiving several recommendations.

"It was awesome," she said. "I am humbled by it."

About 30 students, a combination of junior high and high school students, take her physical education course because a majority of the school's students participate in athletics, she said.

Hemphill's goal is to teach students that exercise is not difficult but fun so they can continue it throughout their lives, she said. To achieve this, she educates her students about games and activities they have not experienced.

Unlike traditional physical education classes, Hemphill said, her class does not include volleyball or basketball.

"If a P.E. kid wanted to play basketball, they would," she said. "Not all of them are athletic and want to play."

Instead, she creates innovative options for her students, including ultimate basketball.

Hemphill presents at other school districts and state conventions under the persona "Queen of Thrift."

As "the queen," she has a unique knack of showing her fellow teachers how to use inexpensive items and turn them into treasures, she said.

Her materials range from different types of pipes to items from Goodwill, Hemphill said. The high price of physical education equipment turned her to invention.

"I've even Dumpster-dived," she said. "I'll grab it and fix it."

One of Hemphill's favorite creations is a miniature golf course, she said.

The course is constructed of football field turf, PVC pipes and roof flashing. Obstacles include coffee cans that have had the bottoms cut out.

She credits her creativity and love of tinkering to her father, who was a meter reader, she said. He would bring home items he found, and the two would take them apart and put them together.

The next item she plans to create is a Gaga pit for a variant of dodgeball that is played with one ball.

She has had to move her class outside because of Hurricane Harvey damage. Before the storm, it was her first year to have a storage space for her equipment.

The practice gym, Hemphill's teaching space for nine years, was destroyed by the hurricane, she said. Oct. 30 was the first day she was allowed back into her new space to collect her equipment.

"I have to get my equipment out and find a place to store it ... They are going to have to bulldoze or gut it," she said. "People don't understand what we are going through."

She plans to transition more of her innovative games outside, including Human Foosball, she said.

If rain is in the forecast, her classes play board games indoors, she said.

"That challenge is part of working out," she said.

In addition to P.E., she teaches health and dual credit courses. She also coaches volleyball and tennis.

Hemphill said she uses Saturdays to prepare her equipment because she cares for her mother Sundays.

She drives about 45 minutes daily from her home in Portland to do what she loves.

Going above and beyond is part of her personality, Hemphill said, and her students reap the benefits.

"That's just who I am," she said. "If I get bored easily, I know they'll get bored."

Related coverage

Day 1: Here comes Harvey

Day 2: Brace yourself

Day 3: 'Prayers protect us'

Day 4: 'We thought we were going to die'

Day 5: 'At least God let us live'

Day 6: 'It's the luck of the draw'

Day 7: 'Everybody will pull together'

Day 8: Guadalupe floods parts of Victoria

Day 9: Texas Zoo evacuates animals (w/video)

Day 10: The Long Road Ahead (w/video)

Day 11: Residents rely on families to rebuild

Day 12: For some, normal still far away

Day 13: Church offers refuge for devastated town

Day 14: Victims find hardship, opportunity (w/video)

Day 15: FEMA frustrates Harvey victims

Day 16: Displaced and in disarray

Day 17: Disaster for humans means catastrophe for pets

Day 18: Nature interrupted (w/video)

Day 19: 'It was like we had been bombed'

Day 20: Students returning to school feel weight of Harvey

Day 21: International Crane Foundation loses office after hurricane

Day 22: Ranching structures, cotton mostly damaged by Harvey

Day 23: Port Lavaca struggles back after Harvey

Day 24: Refugio: 'We're trying to get back to normal'

Day 25: Nonprofit leaves people lost after Harvey

Day 26: 'We are human beings like everyone else'

Day 27: Refugio schools find way to reopen

Day 28: Bloomington schools begin year in different classroom setups

Day 29: Methodist church serves those in need after hurricane

Day 30: Scientists measure damage to endangered species' habitat (w/video)

Day 31: Medical community feels impact of Harvey

Day 32: Harvey's speed leaves many in harm's way

Day 33: After Harvey, Seadrift couple forced out of home

Day 34: Bloomington Elementary School educates students in FEMA dome

Day 35: School districts share issues with state, US senator

Day 36: VISD students observe See You at the Pole

Day 37: Expectant family struggles after Harvey (w/video)

Day 38: Woodsboro pulls together after Harvey

Day 39: Housing options slim for displaced families

Day 40: SBA approves more than $500M in disaster loans

Day 41: Hunger greater in Crossroads post-Harvey

Day 42: 'Harvey broke me'

Day 44: Goliad baby born as hurricane swirled toward Crossroads

Day 45: Mother recalls 'scary' birth during Harvey

Day 46: Harvey devastates homeowners without insurance

Day 47: Officials have no details on housing relief

Day 48: Harvey impacts couple's 2 Victoria businesses, Rockport home

Day 49: Crews begin repair work on historic McFaddin church

Day 50: Hurricane, flood force Jaguars to make adjustments

Day 51: Texas Zoo thanks Vickers students for donation

Day 52: Seadrift women helping people affected by hurricane

Day 53: Mold creates big problem for homeowners

Day 54: Crossroads public agencies deal with FEMA challenges

Day 55: Special delivery

Day 56: Texas Gulf Coast mayors discuss Harvey aftermath

Day 57: Tenants sue after Harvey eviction

Day 58: Nonprofit directors face difficult fundraising decision after Harvey

Day 59: VISD applies for waivers to reduce Harvey burden

Day 60: Victoria's relief efforts lacked coordination, leadership

Day 61: Popular restaurant battles back from Harvey

Day 62: City looks to buy sprinkler controls for $160K

Day 63: Housing after Harvey (w/video)

Day 64: City looks to help with hefty water bills

Day 65: Men's shelter, soup kitchen closed because of Harvey

Day 66: Watt routes almost $1M to Crossroads' hungry

Day 67: Recovery group seeks members, community leaders

Day 68: Habitat volunteers help Harvey victims rebuild

Day 69: Lawmakers, counties to discuss Harvey response

Day 70: Oyster season opens after Harvey; new rules adopted

Day 71: Crossroads leaders talk storm damage to lawmakers

Day 72: Symphony to open concert season after Harvey delay

Day 73: Harvey recovery group works to measure unmet needs

Day 74: City considers ways to shore up water system

Day 75: County officials: Mobile homes need more oversight

Helpful information

Where to get water, gas and other supplies

Helpful information after the storm

Updates on city services

Related Stories

Hope after Harvey: When strangers became friends



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia