Builders of the Program

Zefo (centre) and SPSC students, June 2012

Zefo Bernath

“I’ve always done it [throwing out ideas to the administration], not for me or my ego – always for my students. …[We help them] to become better and stronger…human beings.”

zefo bernath

Practicality and Action

Zefo came to Douglas in 1991. He started as a contract worker for the SPSC department before eventually becoming full-time faculty.

As someone who was action- and outdoor-oriented, Zefo’s field of instruction centered around practical activities, such performance analysis courses on various sports like gymnastics, dance, tennis, and swimming (all of which he had a background in); he also covered topics related to physical movement, like biomechanics. When teaching the topic, he would use its concepts to deliver meaningful advice. For example, a phrase he often told students was “flexion before extension” – to point your finger to yourself before you point it to somebody else.

Throughout his time at Douglas, Zefo’s area of focus continued to be delivering the practical side of the SPSC curriculum.

“…I was…happy I could function and help people who didn’t [yet] have that kind of skill or desire or orientation [in physical activity and education].”

Zefo, on teaching spsc courses

Pioneering, Part 1: Exchange with Hungary

In the 1990s, Zefo was selected as the SPSC member to spearhead the department’s first-ever international exchange program.

The idea, which was proposed by Gert and greenlit by the College, was to be a teaching exchange with the Hungarian University of Physical Education. The plan was for Zefo to travel to Budapest teach the students PE at the University.

“[Gert knew] he [could] throw me through nature and I [could] find a shelter. He said: “You go first; be the pioneer.”

Zefo, on how he was selected to head the exchange

There, Zefo taught a total of four lessons through translation. True to the practical model representative of the SPSC department, he asked for a mixed gymnasium-classroom setting, with two lessons in the classroom and two lessons in the gym.

“I asked the people [from the Hungarian University]…if they [could] actually do the presentation in the gymnasium. They accommodated me very well.”

Zefo, on asking for a practical environment

From the exchange, students learned about practical performance, and also gained new ideas for creative forms of teaching and grouping that differed from their own.

“It was very interesting and different and challenging, which I liked.”

Zefo, on the exchange experience

Practicality and Action

Zefo also took part in the SPSC department’s second exchange program with Shanghai Normal University in 1999. This collaboration was also a teaching exchange.

Along with Alison, Zefo travelled to Shanghai to teach the University’s students, and also demonstrate new teaching methods for the University’s PE instructors. The exchange program occurred over consecutive years, and Shanghai Normal was proactive in learning and improving throughout its duration. The instructors established friendly relationships with the SPSC faculty, and adapted to whatever needs and observations that came up. At the end of the teaching exchange, the SPSC department has successfully shared its curriculum and approach – especially that of the Coaching Diploma – with the University’s instructors, who could then take the material and run on their own.

Read more about the exchanges here.

Dance and Gymnastics

During the development of the BPEC program, Zefo suggested changing how gymnastics and dance were structured in the SPSC curriculum.

Up until then, the two sports had been structurally treated as one course: students would learn gymnastics in the first semester and dance in the second. However, Zefo felt that the two sports had different identities: while they were similar in the sense of their performance, they were very different dynamically. As a result, he proposed that individual courses should be made for each respective sport. In the end, the SPSC department decided to go ahead with the suggestion, and Zefo pioneered the creation of two new courses: SPSC 1316 (Movement Education and Gymnastics) and SPSC 1317 (Creative and Social Dance).*

*Recently changed to SPSC 1317: Dance in Schools and Communities.

Zefo retired from Douglas College in 2004. He continues to maintain an active lifestyle by practicing calisthenics, mobility exercises, and biking throughout the week.

“I would say thanks to Gert, we are who we are. Or you [the SPSC students] are who you are. Also – Alan, Robin, Alison, Tim – what they’ve done [within and outside] the College is just unheard of. …[T]hese people were always my examples…people who I admire, and I always will.”

Zefo, on the SPSC faculty