A passion for health and kids; Mr. Rob Eichholtz is the reason your kids love PE at Hardin Valley Elementary! And to answer the question y’all really want to know: Yes, they still get to play with and under the giant parachute in the gym!
Adam: How do you say your last name?
Rob: ay – k oh l t z
Adam : Do you know where that’s from?
Rob: German. Oakwood.
Adam: Ah! All right.
Adam: Where were you born?
Rob: In Houston, Texas.
Adam: How’d you end up here?
Rob: Well, Dad got transferred. I tell people, you know, I’m a Texan by birth, but a Volunteer by the grace of God. *laughter* I only lived there for a year, so I don’t even remember anything, you know.
Adam: So you guys came straight to Knoxville?
Adam: What was your elementary school mascot?
Rob: Well, I went to Farragut, so I feel like we were the Admirals then, but now the elementary school or the primary school, I think they’re the Dolphins? But then when they go to the intermediate school they’re the Admirals. But I just remember being the Farragut Admirals.
Adam: What college did you go to?
Adam: What was your major?
Rob: Physical Education.
Adam: How many years have you taught?
Rob: This is my 22nd year in Knox County and my 16th year at Hardin Valley.
Adam: Where were you before that?
Rob: Pleasant Ridge Elementary.
Adam: What do you teach?
Rob: Straight P.E.! We’ve got a broad range. We can kind of pick and choose. We don’t have a set curriculum where we’re supposed to do this and that. We just got done doing volleyball. We’re doing long jump today and then we’re going to do a Ninja Warrior course the week after that before Christmas and then when we get back from Christmas we’ll start basketball.
Adam: Wow! Now how has P.E. changed since you were a student to now beginning teacher? What changes have you seen?
Rob: You know, we don’t do the dodge ball anymore, It’s kind of frowned upon. I look at it as more, I’m going to try to teach you a skill and then you do with what you want. I’m trying to find something out there that a kid may not normally know about. Like we do lacrosse too in the spring. I try to find something besides the basketball, volleyball; we do a gymnastics thing as well. So just something a little different.
Adam: If I taught you rugby would you teach the kids?
Rob: *laughter* oh no!
Adam: I’m excited about this one. What clubs do you sponsor? What sports do you coach?
Rob: Well, we do cross country in the fall and then in spring we do track.
Adam: What kind of participation do you get?
Rob: Our cross country has been so big. I’ve had to do tryouts, because we’ve had close to 100 kids and with three adults out there, it’s tough. So this is the first year we did tryout week. We kept 60, which is still a very large group, but I’m just trying to keep the number down. Last year, Coach Bringle had to leave early for something and I was out there by myself, with 70 kids. Somebody got bloody, got hurt, someone had to use the bathroom and then somebody got stung by a bee and it was just me by myself. I’m like, man, that doesn’t work.
Adam: So I guess track and field is coming up.
Rob: Yeah, and then track is different because it is a tryout, where it’s always been a tryout, you know? We have certain events and the kids can only do one event. They do long jump, the 100 yard dash, the 4 x 100 relay, the 200, and the 400. The 400 is for fourth grade and fifth grade and then that 800 just for fifth grade. Then we also have a tug of war and a sack race.
Adam: Tug of war?! Oh Man! Where was that when I was growing up? When does that begin? if a kid’s interested, when are tryouts?
Rob: The thing with cross country, we have like seven races, so that’s more of a season so to speak. And with track, it is just two meets.
Rob: We’ll have one this year. This one will be at [Hardin Valley] Academy and it’s with all the larger schools like Cedar Bluff and Farragut. There’s about 10 to 12 schools that come to that. And if you finish fourth or better than you go to the Knox County Championship, which is held a couple of weeks later.
Adam: When should they plan on that? When does that come up?
Rob: We’ve actually been trying them out already. We’ve tested people in the 100 and 200. We’re doing the long jump this week. Then we kind of narrow it down and then after that we’ll do a more of a formal trial. We’ll go over to the track and narrow it down.
Adam: What, what kind of success have you seen both in cross country and track?
Rob: I do have to give props to one of my parents, Jeff Charlton, he’s the one especially behind our cross country success. He’s been helping me out for six years. Our first year together, he was just kind of laid back, kind of watching and we didn’t even qualify for state that year. He was like, if you don’t mind, can I help? And I said, okay. He goes, ‘I’ve got a plan; we’re going to be state champions.’ He came out with a plan and we worked a lot harder than we have in the past. Our boys ended up winning that year and it has just kind of snowballed from there. He practices with some of our top kids through the summer and has a little running club he does with them. So our boys have won state four times and our girls once, and they finished second this year. He also helps them with track. He works with the 200, 400 and 800 [meter] kids. I’ll do the relay. Bringle does long jump. I’ve got an old high school college student who works with the sack race. Haha, we’ve got a good range of people helping. Probably more than anybody else.
Adam: Well that’s neat. Lots of success. Is there already a cross country track program at the Middle School?
Rob: Yes. Jeff Charlton, he also runs the middle school and this is the first year there but track, I’m not sure about the track team.
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Rob: I love kids and I love sports. I remember when I was going through college and I didn’t really have a major. My Dad was like, all right, you need to narrow it down. So I got the booklet, went through all the courses and saw physical education. I thought, hey that looks a lot like me.
Adam: Yeah! So what sports did you play growing up?
Rob: Pretty much everything. I first started playing soccer, played basketball, played baseball, played football, a wide range.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Rob: I would probably be a trainer for a gym or something like that.
Adam: So still physically involved, very nice.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Rob: Coach Henry, he was over at Farragut for years. He was awesome and he was my freshman football coach too. I mean he taught for YEARS. He probably taught for 40 to 45 years, and he just retired like five years ago.
Adam: What made you like them so much?
Rob: Just his attitude He wasn’t a yelling, screaming kind of guy. But he could give you a look, and you knew.
Adam: Which educator have you learned the most from?
Rob: Her name is Robin Disedare. She doesn’t teach anymore, but she was my mentor teacher when I was student teaching. She was at West Hills Elementary for years. When I first started at a Pleasant Ridge, I was there four days a week and then on Fridays, I was at West Hills. So I would teach with her then. I learned a lot from her and I really learned how to do a field day for large school.
Adam: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Rob: I would say probably with our track team because when we first started doing it, we finished seventh place, and then sixth and then fourth and second. In the last three years we’ve finished first. We’re proud of that.
Adam: What do you consider a successful student to be?
Rob: Somebody that comes in and doesn’t complain, you know, when you asked them to do what they are supposed to do, and they do it. A successful student is the one that usually isn’t the best athlete, but they’re out there trying their best. Somebody that’s trying to jump rope. “I can’t do it”, but they’re there. Then they finally get it, and there’s that smile on their face. That is awesome.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Rob: Funding to get the classroom size down. I think that that’s a big deal. Some of our fourth grade classes are up to 27, 28.
Adam: What do you think is the right number?
Rob: I think around 20 would be awesome. I think the teacher would be a little bit more hands on, so to speak.
Adam: What’s something that you could use for the gym?
Rob: Honestly, I’ve pretty much got everything I need here. The PTA here is awesome. Whenever we need something, I let them know and they get it for me.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Rob: I have a motorcycle. I love to ride my motorcycle. Got a boat, I like to do some wakeboarding & inner tube in the summertime. I like to ride my bicycle, whether it’s mountain biking or on the road.
Adam: Where do you usually ride your bike? Is there a certain mountain?
Rob: There’s a little mountain bike trail near the dog park and Lakeside Tavern and I go over there and ride. It’s only five minutes from my house.
Adam: What’s a good way for a student or parent to spoil you? Especially with Christmas around the corner.
Rob: A little gift card, like Chick-Fil-A, Firehouse. I mean we get those around Christmas time and they’re so awesome. Yeah, we do pretty good over here. I cannot complain! I love being here at Hardin Valley. The facility, the gym, everyone is awesome here.