By Paula Ebben

NEW BEDFORD (CBS) – This month’s WBZ Eye On Education “Top Teacher” is Rebecca Cotugno – an avid runner and marathoner who is sharing her passion with the next generation. She’s incorporated her sport into her classroom life at Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, and her students love it.

She calls it “The Energy Squad,” and says it’s helping her students’ academics improve. The kids call themselves “The Speed Crew” and they know it’s been good for them.

“When I have a lot of energy,” 10-year-old DJ Sedey says, “I can always go out here – then I can put my brain in class and focus.”

Rebecca Cotugno and a student running (WBZ-TV)

Nine-year-old Jordan Kirby agrees, “You get all your energy out so you’re prepared for the whole day.”

They all talked about “getting their energy out.”

“Oh yeah,” says Ms Cotugno. “I’ve always run since I was a kid. I thought…you know what helps ME? Is to run around. So why not try that with the kids?”

And it took off. She sees the payoff in her literacy classroom as her students read aloud and improve – ready to settle in with a good book after a good run.

And when they have run five miles in a week – the student-runners in “The Speed Crew” get to claim one of her many medals.

“It feels great!” adds DJ. “I like earning medals because I complete stuff and want to try to get higher and higher.”

“It’s really motivating for the group,” said Alma del Mar Principal Kaitlin Goldrick, who thinks it’s the perfect combination of task and talent. “It was just this beautiful opportunity where she was able to match a passion that she had with a need we have at school and it’s just kind of blossomed from there.”

Paula Ebben


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