A legend continues

82-year-old PE teacher still imparts skills, values

 

Dario Soto is 82 years old and he is the physical education teacher for Medicine Bow and Elk Mountain Elementary schools. Thursday he had his annual field day which usually has both schools participate. Unfortunately, due to the weather throwing a late spring snow storm at the state, Elk Mountain Elementary students could not come to Medicine Bow to join in the activities.

Soto has been setting up this event for years. He makes the teams fair by putting two older children on a team complimented by two smaller children.

He grew up in Pine Bluffs where he was born. After graduating high school he joined the U.S. Navy. Upon leaving the Navy, he attended the University of Wyoming, graduating with a teaching degree for social studies and a minor in physical education. He started his teaching career at Ft. Laramie, where he taught for three years. Then he came to Medicine Bow.

He has been in the town since.

Shelley Cooper–a teacher at Medicine Bow Elementary and a former student of Soto's, says Soto loves the school and students. He not only taught her, but her son played basketball under him. Soto still coaches junior high basketball in Hanna.


"I am so proud of the skills he gives all the kids. I know what it was like to learn under him, then watch him impart the same integrity and sportsmanship on my children," said Cooper.

Cooper says Soto not only spends tremendous amounts of time with the students, but also purchases uniforms and equipment out of his own pocket.

"He'll hate I told you that, but that is how committed he is to helping the children of the communities," said Cooper. "He goes out of his way constantly for these little guys, this school here and, I am sure, all students he comes in contact with. He really cares about each individual child."

Cooper says Soto is far from being a softie on the children he teaches. He makes sure the students pay attention when he is speaking.

"I really respect he doesn't coddle the children because he wants them to learn." said Cooper.

The Medicine Bow Elementary gym is limited in that there are no hoops for basketball and the height of the ceiling is too low for volleyball. Since the children aren't going to be able to practice shooting baskets, Soto focuses on the kids being proficient dribblers. With volleyball he has the kids emphasize serving skills, since they can't really play games. He makes due with the limitations he has.

Soto taught kindergarten to seniors in high school in Northern Carbon County from 1967 to until now. He had winning teams in basketball and football at Medicine Bow High School, and adult residents who grew up in the three communities speak reverently of this P.E. teacher.

Soto retired in 1993 but after two years he found himself coming back to help Medicine Bow Elementary as a substitute. The next thing Soto knew, Elk Mountain and Medicine Bow Elementary schools needed a P.E. teacher and the Carbon County School No. 2 district asked him to take the position. He has been teaching in the schools since.

He started the field day 10 years ago.

The field day has exercises with specific purposes. Jumping rope teaches hand–eye coordination, jumping over hula hoops trains children on depth perception and the balance beam gets them confidence with height, equilibrium, stability, footing and steadiness.

An interesting race involves running and jumping over hoops to get at the end to find a cup. The children are given a piece of wrapped salt water taffy to put on their nose and they then try to drop the candy into the cup. There are three pieces of candy allotted to each child, translating into three opportunities to get the taffy into the cup. After every child has raced, the candy is counted in the cup to see which team won.

Soto does the race twice. Once for the children to understand what is expected. The second race is smoother with better results and more confidence apparent.

Another unique competition is when balloons are taped to the shoes of the students who are placed in a circle of cones. If a student leaves the circle, they are disqualified. The child with one remaining balloon wins. The balloons are taped in such a way that there is no danger to the feet, but the game creates laughter along with foot coordination useful in soccer, football and basketball.

Soto says it is about letting children feel improvement and gain confidence.

"Mr. Soto is a treasure," said Mark Shipp, the principal for Medicine Bow, Elk Mountain and Hanna Elementary schools.

 

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