The annual Middle School Health Fair at Wayland-Cohocton draws in students, families and friends every year to a busy and excited atmosphere in the gymnasium. On hand at the event has been everything from race car drivers talking about healthy choices to school nurses talking about hand-washing. There are numerous hands-on activities and loads of fun.  The Health Fair is organized each year by Middle School Health Teacher Kristina Loop, an eight-year teacher at Wayland-Cohocton, who kicked off the event her first year in the district.

The annual Middle School Health Fair at Wayland-Cohocton draws in students, families and friends every year to a busy and excited atmosphere in the gymnasium. On hand at the event has been everything from race car drivers talking about healthy choices to school nurses talking about hand-washing. There are numerous hands-on activities and loads of fun.  The Health Fair is organized each year by Middle School Health Teacher Kristina Loop, an eight-year teacher at Wayland-Cohocton, who kicked off the event her first year in the district.


“Mrs. Feinman wanted to celebrate October as the Month of the Young Adolescent, so we brainstormed and came up with the idea of a having a health fair to reach our students and families, by bridging the gap between the school and community and touching on many aspects of adolescent health,” said Loop.


But, the journey to educate youth about health is much more personal than that, particularly since Mrs. Loop now has two small children of her own. Mrs. Loop herself grew up in a home with two smoking parents. Her mother’s seemingly good health meant her requests for her to stop smoking were unsuccessful. Six days before her 48th birthday, Mrs. Loop’s mother became ill with flu-like symptoms and died unexpectedly of smoking-related pneumonia just six days after her 48th birthday. Mrs. Loop’s father was also a long-time smoker and was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in November of 2008 and died the following January of 2009. Although her father met her oldest child Ethan, Mrs. Loop was nearing the end of her pregnancy with daughter Abbie when her father passed away.


This isn’t a journey that Mrs. Loop keeps private. She shares the experience with her students during middle school health classes she teachers to fifth through eighth graders.


“A few times since I had Ethan and Abbie, the kids have said to me, ‘So your mom never got to meet your babies?’ They seem to get it,” said Loop. “It’s hard to lose your parents, especially to smoking. It could have been prevented if they had never smoked.”


Mrs. Loop connects with her students on a daily basis as much of what she teaches is very personal  to the students and their own well-being. She engages her students through active participating in the Relay for Life and classroom projects. Whether making a lung from a plastic cup to visualize breathing or learning how to see through advertising techniques in the tobacco industry she is making her students wary consumers.  By sharing her own story and that of her family she hopes to encourage the kids to make healthy decisions.


“The most frustrating thing for me is that I can understand why my grandparents smoked, they were not taught the dangers of smoking. I can understand why my parents smoked, they weren’t told either,” said Loop. “However, I cannot understand why kids these days choose to smoke. They KNOW the dangers, the health risks the cost associated with buying cigarettes and the healthcare. It is so frustrating to me,” said Loop.


Next week, Oct. 25-29, Middle School students will be taking part in Red Ribbon Week activities and attending the Health Fair. Mrs. Loop has one wish for her students: “I wish they could look into the future and see what kind of adult they would like to be, and start making healthy choices now by exercising, eating healthy, not smoking or using drugs, making good choices in friends and relationships. They will feel great, look great and become the healthy productive members of society that each of our students has every opportunity to be.”


Although she started out in in college to earn an undergraduate degree in athletic training at Alfred University, Mrs. Loop fell in love with teaching after tutoring underclassmen.  She decided then she wanted to be part of making a difference in the lives of students. In addition to teaching at Wayland-Cohocton, she also teachers health and physical education at Genesee Community College in Dansville.


It isn’t uncommon for students to speak well of Mrs. Loop and to reflect on the lessons they are learning in her class. The lessons are personal and a chance for the students to begin to steer their own futures. Her willingness to use her own experiences builds a bond of trust and legitimacy that makes her lessons on healthy living that much more poignant.


“Ethan will pick up the picture of my mom and dad, he met my dad, but never my mom, and will bring it to me and say, ‘This is grandma and grandpa.’ I know my mom and dad would do anything to have been able to spend time with my kids. I wish they would have realized the dangers of smoking before it was too late.” In sharing her story, Mrs. Loop hopes her students will use the knowledge to make healthy choices so that they may see their own families grow and live long healthy lives.  Please join Wayland-Cohocton Middle School as it celebrates young adolescents at the annual health fair 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27.