Finding Success In & Out of the Classroom: James Ellis, Bryan U Faculty Member APTES

James_liftingI guess I'll start with a little background about myself. I’m originally from Illinois, where I was involved in athletics pretty much my whole life – primarily soccer, wrestling, and track & field. I went to the University of Illinois, where I earned a degree in Kinesiology. During that time I was also a cheerleader which, since it’s considered a varsity sport, allowed me to train with and learn from the football strength and conditioning coaches in a private facility for more than three years.

After college, I started working for Life Time Fitness©. For 5 years I worked as a Personal Trainer, Assistant Department Head, Metabolic Specialist, Pilates Coordinator and Regional Education Specialist. I started moving up in the company and worked for the highest revenue-producing club in the country near Chicago. It was pretty incredible, and I loved working directly with clients to impact and improve their lives. At the same time, my dad, who is 70 years old and has diabetes, moved to Arizona. I decided to quit Life Time and move out to Arizona to help him. With my help, he lost about 40 pounds and got his health back on track.

After college, in order to stay strong and competitive, I started Olympic Weightlifting. In the past five years, I've won both the Illinois and Arizona State Weightlifting Championship event and continue to compete in various weightlifting events, including multiple National level meets, most recently the American Open Weightlifting Championships in Washington D.C. I was introduced to Bryan University through my weightlifting coach, and now I’ve been teaching at Bryan since February 2013.

One of the things I really like about Bryan University is that we’re continually evolving and improving. As a faculty group, we share ideas and openly discuss solutions. We seek ways to impact student success. We can speak directly with the instructional design team and suggest an adjustment, and they will do it immediately – there’s no red tape. It’s great to be in an environment where my opinion matters and small adjustments can make big impacts.

One of the major challenges we had initially with the online exercise science and personal training program was making sure students understood how to move and perform technique properly, since we needed the ability to observe the students directly and provide coaching and feedback.  We identified a great solution to this challenge with a software tool called YouSeeU™, which allows us to see and observe the students in action using a webcam. Students can also create their own exercise videos while they coach other people and perform the techniques. Once complete, they upload their videos to a secure online course-specific site.

What many prospective students may not know is that the online environment offers many benefits.  One benefit is the ability to interact and develop rapport with classmates from all over the country. Each student has a unique perspective to bring to the table.  Classes are held live in a virtual environment using webcams and headsets, so students get to know each other similar to a physical classroom. From a teaching perspective, I also enjoy that I can be anywhere in the country and teach online. I’ve taught classes from Chicago, Washington D.C., and other locations.

One of the things I love most about my job as an instructor is seeing when a new concept ‘clicks’ for a student. It’s very fulfilling when I see a student who initially struggles with an idea or a concept, but later gains an understanding after I teach it in a way that resonates. Some students enter the program with the mentality that they already know quite a lot about exercise; however, they soon discover how broad the field is and how much there is to learn to become a true professional.

For those who are considering a career in fitness and exercise, I’d highly recommend it. It’s been a great choice for me and I learn something new each day. For those students currently in school, I’d encourage you to finish the program and keep an open mind. There are so many things to learn and great ideas to build upon.

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