Shannon Waller, a third grade teacher at Country Club Elementary, and his daughter Shanthia Waller, 10, run through a neighborhood on Thursday, June 13,
Shannon Waller, a third grade teacher at Country Club Elementary, and his daughter Shanthia Waller, 10, run through a neighborhood on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Farmington. Shannon Waller started a walking group that meets Monday through Thursday every week. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — With an enthusiastic group of students and parents showing up each week, a Country Club Elementary teacher is witnessing his summer running program grow.

Shannon Waller, a third-grade teacher, started the running program at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year with great success.

Using a path lining the perimeter of the grounds behind the school, Waller led his students at the beginning of each day for about 15 to 20 minutes. Waller said the students could barely run one lap (one-third mile), around the school's grounds at the beginning but by the end of the school year, they were running two to three miles a day.

"I enjoyed, the kids I had in class, seeing how healthy they are and their habits and attitude about running and staying healthy has changed," Waller said. "It's phenomenal. Kids and adults come from the community, these kids that have been doing this, it's just amazing. It becomes a healthy habit for them."

As school broke for summer break, one student asked Waller to continue the program.

Carrie Thompson's son Jack was interested in running with his classmates during the summer, Carrie said. The group meets at 8 a.m. Monday through Thursday at Waller's classroom before setting out to the playground to stretch before running for about an hour.

Thompson has been working with Waller, running with the class each morning during the school year, acting as an unofficial girl's running coach.

"I've been a lifelong runner and cyclist and I just know the importance of exercise," Thompson said. "I think it's just so good for the kids, for their educational piece."

Waller said the group has increased from about eight people to about 30, consisting of students from elementary to high school and parents.

Country Club Elementary fourth grader Senata Begay, 9, finishes a fun run on Thursday, June 13, 2013, outside of Country Club Elementary in Farmington.
Country Club Elementary fourth grader Senata Begay, 9, finishes a fun run on Thursday, June 13, 2013, outside of Country Club Elementary in Farmington. Every Monday through Thursday children and parents meet at Shannon Waller's classroom at Country Club to run and walk. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

Nine-year-old Casey Anderson and his sister, seven-year-old Lauren, both said they love to exercise and think the program is a lot of fun.

"I just get to run with my friends," Lauren said.

Tesia McCarty has seen the positive effects of introducing running into Waller's classroom. Tesia has seen her daughter Milena become more self-confident as she adjusted to the running program.

"She didn't see herself as a runner and she thought she couldn't run. She ran a 5-K and she was running four miles at the end of the year and now she is pushing herself more," McCarty said. "She is doing something she didn't believe she could at the beginning of the year."

Waller was able to sign up nine of his students for the Goosebump 5-K race in February and has witnessed change from all of his students.

"Our special (education) teacher told me, 'You cannot believe what it did for them academically and socially," Waller said. "It just opened up the world for a lot of kids. Which I did not anticipate that happening."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt@jkelloggdt.