For the past 18 years, Matt LaCortiglia has been introducing students at Perkins School for the Blind to the joys of sports and physical activity. As the adapted physical education coordinator in Perkins’ Deafblind Program, LaCortiglia makes traditional games like baseball and Capture the Flag accessible for students who may not be able to see first base or hear the crack of a bat making contact.
This past weekend, LaCortiglia was honored for his work with the Amelia Riou Award for outstanding contribution in the area of adapted physical education, presented by the Massachusetts Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD). LaCortiglia accepted the award at MAHPERD’s annual banquet in Milford, Massachusetts.
“I am incredibly fortunate to be receiving an award for work I have such a passion for and truly love,” he said. “I thrive on the challenge of creating an environment for students to succeed and seeing their reaction to success.”
LaCortiglia’s colleagues describe him as an ingenious and creative teacher who has been instrumental in expanding Perkins’ physical education programs.
“He has a passion for physical education at a time when it’s often not a priority,” said Barbara Mason, education director of the Deafblind Program. “PE class is so important for our kids – it’s not only the fun of sports and recreation, they also need to have that release.”
In a recent class, LaCortiglia set up a game of “pepper,” a fast-paced activity involving a brightly colored soccer ball and a plastic bat. He helped one student, Timmy, hit the ball so it bounced across the gym floor, where two classmates in wheelchairs trapped it in their laps before throwing it back.
In another exercise, LaCortiglia utilized a switch to allow a student with limited arm strength to control a pitching machine. Adaptations like these are common in LaCortiglia’s classes, where he wants every student to experience the thrill that sighted athletes feel when they make a catch or hit a home run.
“It is a remarkable feeling to see a youngster with deafblindness smile and laugh after giving effort and accomplishing an athletic or motor task when no one thought they could,” he said.
When he’s not teaching, LaCortiglia works to share his knowledge of adaptive physical education with others in the profession. He has co-authored curriculum, produced a webcast for Perkins eLearning and spoken at conferences.
“He has great ideas and his enthusiasm is contagious – people want to work with him,” said Mason. “I’m thrilled that his work has been recognized.”