Jeri Dipley didn’t see a reason to give up on her childhood love of sports. So she turned it into her vocation.
“I was a little gym rat,” she said. “Then you find out that there’s actually a career in it and you go, ‘Yeah.’ … ‘I can play and get paid, too?’ It was just being in athletics and wanting to share that passion with kids.”
Dipley, a physical education teacher at John Adams Middle School, will retire at the end of 2015 after nearly 16 years in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district.
Her tenure at JAMS will end her 25-year career teaching PE in public schools, where she taught hundreds of students not only about the importance of staying active but also about sportsmanship, teamwork and commitment.
At JAMS, she also served as president of the school’s site governance council.
“It’s a lovely place to work,” she said. “Every day is a highlight when you’re working in the Monica. I couldn’t ask for anything better to end my career.”
Born in Long Beach and raised in Torrance, Dipley went to Stephen M. White Middle School before attending Carson High School, where she participated in badminton, softball, basketball, track and volleyball.
She then studied at Los Angeles Harbor College in Wilmington before earning a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential from Cal State Long Beach.
While in college, she played basketball, softball and badminton, although she lamented that the university didn’t have much to offer female athletes until after she graduated.
She said her own teachers and coaches inspired her to pursue a career in athletics education.
Dipley began her teaching career at the private Chadwick School in Rancho Palos Verdes before taking a position at Morningside High School in Inglewood in 1990. She stayed there until she moved into SMMUSD in 2000.
In times of budgetary constraints, Dipley was steadfast in her belief in the importance of physical education.
Of the 7th graders at the 16th Street middle school who took the state’s physical fitness test in 2012-13, just 48.6 percent met all six fitness standards, according to the school’s report card. The following year, just 63 percent of state fitness test-takers at JAMS met the standard for aerobic capacity, according to state education department figures.
Dipley said physical education is valuable not only because it fosters lifelong fitness habits but also because it plays a significant role in socialization and the development of life skills.
“I get them. I’m 62 going on 12,” she said. “I understand how hard it is. It’s hard when you’re not secure in yourself and you’re trying to find your way. They’re trying to find their way.
“I believe you should have fun, and I’ve given it my best. My kids seem to respond well to how I work with them. You can only do your best and then enjoy it.”
“Epic adventures await” is Dipley’s motto for retirement, as she plans to travel extensively across North America in her RV. She wants to tour parts of the U.S. and Canada that she hasn’t seen, like Vermont and Nova Scotia.
“I’m always going somewhere,” she said. “But I’m going to spend some extended time in different areas rather than just visiting. I have my mountain bike and kayak, and I’m ready to go. You don’t need anything else.”