BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Seven years ago, Kendale Lakes elementary school physical education teacher Gloriangeles Arguello, 47, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints.
While watching television, she encountered an advertisement promoting Zumba, a fitness dance class. She decided to purchase the corresponding DVDs in hopes of alleviating her pain.
The result: She was pain free.
Now, Arguello is teaching Zumba in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle to both students and staff at her school, 8000 SW 142nd Ave.
“I want to make a difference in my students’ lives,” said Arguello, a certified Zumba instructor.
Aside from teaching sports education, she incorporates 30-minutes of Zumba in her rhythm and dance unit for a grade. Arguello, who is from Nicaragua, leads seven Zumba classes a day and trains both staff and students.
Wearing sweat pants and sneakers, Arguello recently led 30 students who danced, clapped, stepped and jumped in a sheltered court to the rhythm of Michael Jackson.
“I want them to learn not only the necessary skills to play sports but also the importance of exercise to maintain a healthy body and mind, both now and in years to come.”
She teaches about 300 students daily. Staff is taught for free in a portable from Monday to Thursday after school.
Fifth grader Nelson Flores, 10, said the fitness program helps him forget about being shy.
“I am a shy dancer but it helps me express myself by dancing,” he said. “It’s extremely awesome.”
Nelson said not only is the workout beneficial health wise, but it is fun, too.
“Some people do it perfect, some mess up, but we laugh about it,” he said.
Nancy Miranda, a fifth-grade math teacher, said she prefers Zumba over lifting weights.
“It makes working out fun,” she said. “I prefer having music and dancing instead of doing aerobics.”
When Arguello was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 40, doctors recommended a combination of medicine and joint-strengthening exercises. She signed up to the gym, but her schedule wasn’t compatible. Arguello even built a pool in her backyard to practice swimming. Regardless, she says, she sought and found relief in Zumba.
“I found myself energized, pain free, fit and happy,” said Arguello, who has been working in the school for 15 years.
Zumba incorporates urban and Latin rhythm styles such as meringue, cumbia, salsa, zamba mambo, pop and reggaeton. It originated in Colombia in the 1990s and was created by Miami-based dancer and choreographer Beto Perez.
A few years ago, Arguello was chosen to work on the School Health Index program, which evaluates ways public schools promote health and fitness to students and staff. Kendale Lakes Elementary is part of the healthy schools program and has partnered with The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Heart Association.
A Texas A&M graduate, Arguello approached administration and suggested Zumba workouts. After conducting a class at a teachers’ professional development day, staff requested the class be taught in school.
The program was implemented last year after approval from Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
School Principal Martha Jaureguizar applauds Arguello’s efforts. “They enjoy dancing; it’s cultural,” she said. “We are a predominantly Hispanic school and we have ties to dancing. Music is something that’s at the forefront of all children’s lives.”
Margaret Lee’s daughter, Debrah Lee, a fifth grader, has been attending the classes for a month.
“It’s another form of physical education,” the mother said. “Who doesn’t want to dance to Michael Jackson?”
Because of her success with Zumba, Arguello said parents are now requesting classes.
“They are enjoying every minute of their time and most importantly they are learning the importance of fitness and wellness,” she said. “This gives me such a great feeling as a teacher.”