Taekwondo afterschool program at Woodlake Unified School District ends after 18 years
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
WOODLAKE – In 2013 Terrence Keller was involved in a car accident. As part of his recovery he had to undergo physical therapy. During rehab he began using mental discipline and a series of “patterns” he had learned from studying taekwondo twenty years earlier. It was a real life application Keller had taught students at Woodlake Unified School District in an afterschool program since 2000 until he left the district in 2007.
The program continued on after Keller’s departure, but recently held their final rank testing before officially ending their 18-year program. Keller along with his two sons Brendon and Alexander were invited back to be part of the event.
For Keller it was an awe inspiring moment to see fifty current and former students come back to the place which had shaped them.
“It was incredibly rewarding,” Keller said. “It really helped me realize what a positive impact that program had on all the kids and the community as a whole.”
Keller began learning taekwondo in the early 1990s. It wasn’t long before he was competing in tournaments in California and Nevada. After a few more years he decided to start his own school. When he lived in Bishop he transformed his garage into a training studio. He averaged about 15 students which ranged from kids to adults.
In 2000 Keller moved back to the central valley and took the principal position at F.J. White Learning Center in Woodlake. Shortly after taking the position the superintendent of the Woodlake Unified School District Stera Tictejen approved Keller to begin an after school program. The focus of which was to teach students the disciplines of taekwondo. At first some of the new parents were a little hesitant to have such a physical activity in a school setting. Although, apprehensive the entire community began to rally around the program.
“I was able to work with some really good parents, students and district and that is what kept this program going for so long,” Keller said.
Only kids were allowed to join, but soon adults were joining the class ranks as well. On average the class had 30-40 participants. Two of those participants were Keller’s two sons, Brendon and Alexander. As the years went on both began to teach alongside their dad.
“I was really blessed that both of my sons became involved in the program and became my assistant instructors,” Keller said.
Keller left the school district in 2007 after taking a principalship with a school in the Farmersville School District. Johnny Varela stepped up and filled the void left by Keller’s departure. A formers student of the program he knew the ins and outs of running it.
“I really give credit to Johnny and his wife to keeping the program going as long as it did,” Keller said.
Some of the benefits of the sport are students develop self-discipline, self-control, and a hard work ethic by learning to physical moves. Keller saw firsthand the benefits of the program with the hard work ethic and mindset directly carrying over into the classroom.
“I felt there was a direct connection with the values of the sport and that they could carry it over into the classroom,” Keller said.
Keller saw the benefits in himself after his car accident. He now competes in masters division running and swimming competitions.
Even with the program closed down, there are still opportunities for students to get training. The downside is many are in the Visalia area.