Eric Lopez brings a personal touch to coaching and instructionby Jan Janes on Apr 9, 2021
Eric Lopez can add Employee of the Month to his long list of titles at Gavilan College: assistant football coach for strength and conditioning, Accessible Education Center department chair, and lead adapted physical education instructor.
Eric Lopez, coach and APE instructor.
When shelter in place happened more than a year ago, Lopez knew big changes were required.
“Could my adapted PE students access technology?” he asked. And discovered, some yes, some a bit, some no computer at all.
“Zoom was easy, but getting them on Canvas took a little more,” Lopez said. “I knew we needed two simple log-in steps. With four I will lose them.”
He worked with Distance Education experts Sabrina Lawrence and Peter Howell to create easy Canvas access.
“With two steps, their G number and PIN, students are right in Canvas,” he said. “I walked them through the class for three weeks. That was huge, moving everything to an online environment.”
Lopez continued to modify adapted PE courses during a nine-week summer session.
“We have specialized equipment in the Adapted Fitness Center, but students no longer have access to it,” he said.
Students who enroll in adapted PE classes have a range of disabilities. Lopez modified all the training that would normally be taught in the Fitness Center. Students know what they used to do, based on their disability, and what they are cleared to do. Lopez created pre-recorded videos on Zoom and Canvas.
“Now that we are no longer face to face,” he said, “The feedback from the students is they really love the classes.”
Students in his classes get a full workout, from warm up to total body exercises that simulate activities in daily life, such as working in the garden, lifting a box onto a shelf.
“They tell me they’re now getting a full routine every day,” said Lopez. “I change it up, avoid complacency, and include adaptive stretching, yoga-type moves and power moves.”
No equipment? No gym or fitness center? Let’s adapt!
Even as he was transitioning the curriculum to online instruction, Lopez knew some students weren’t as active without access to the Adaptive Fitness Center. He created Gavilan College APE Health & Fitness Packet, a 25-page guide with instructions for getting started, finding resting and target heart rates, and items that could substitute for gym equipment.
In the guide, Lopez has photos demonstrating all the ways students with disabilities can adapt the exercises to meet their needs.
Some students could access the information online. Lopez mailed the packet to students who did not have computers, and he personally followed up with them. He meets with a statewide Adapted PE group twice monthly, and shared the health packet with them as well.
“A lot of students say they feel so much better, stronger,” he said. “And current students recommend it to their friends.”
Adapted PE classes will be offered online during Summer 2021. Lopez also teaches classes with Hope Services. Once students can return to campus, he hopes to teach two swim classes.
“Some students are saying they’re waiting for the pool to re-open,” he said. “Swimming is low impact, no stress on the joints.”
Lopez first worked at Gavilan as a mobility aide while studying toward his BA in Political Science at CSU Fresno.
“After finishing my degree, I started working in probation,” said Lopez. Later he moved to corrections and discovered it was a tough job. “After 15 years of a very sedentary job - you just sit, working to stay awake - I knew I needed a career change.”
He returned to college while working, this time CSU Monterey Bay, where he earned his BA in Kinesiology, and then Southern Utah University for his MA in sports conditioning and performance.
“I was contacted by Nikki Dequin about a job opening in athletics,” said Lopez. “Then Karen Sato asked if I was interested in adapted PE.” The answer, both times, was yes.
During his career, Lopez has coached at Gilroy High School, continues to train and condition with Gavilan athletes, and now teaches students with disabilities and elders. The sedentary lifestyle is history.
“Along with the students, my own health is a priority,” he said. “My day starts at 8 a.m. and I log 10K steps by 11 a.m.”
At the Board of Trustees Zoom meeting where the Employee of the Month award was bestowed, Lopez received a shout out from yet another department at Gavilan.
“Yay, Eric! We miss you in the Writing Center!” Megan Wong-Lane wrote in the chat. “The fact that you reach out and can make those connections all over campus just shows how special you are. You put in so much effort, and care so deeply about our students and community.”