Principal Chris Lineberry: Recess is his favorite subject

Dr. Chris Lineberry is an Educator, Author, and nationally known advocate for giving our kids a break! Lineberry began work as a teacher and had a lightning fast rise to becoming a Principal while in his 20’s, at a rural school in North Carolina. There were extremely high expectations for this wunderkind. And with high expectations often comes a high degree of stress. One day in 2006, Lineberry was sitting in his office when something didn’t feel right. Tightness in the chest. High blood pressure. His co-worker, who had some medical training, said seven words he will never forget. “Son, you are having a heart attack.” That moment changed the course of his life.

“A lot of times in life, some of the things you think could be the worst things that could happen, turn out to be a tremendous blessing. I received a gift that day when I had my heart attack. What I thought was important, really wasn’t,” Lineberry said. “It shifted the whole way I look at being an educator and leader in schools.” He realized the stress he was feeling in his own life was similar to the stress many of the kids were feeling. This realization only deepened when tragedy struck at a nearby school. “A 5th grade child took his own life over his test scores,” Lineberry explained, still clearly pained by this story. “What are we doing?” he wondered. “Maybe we need to change our approach.”

From that moment on, Lineberry began to change his own life and the lives of all the children who came into his orbit as an educator. He implemented an hour of physical activity for students every day, and he had teachers integrate health and wellness into their curriculum.

After moving to Arizona, where Lineberry is currently the Principal at Stanfield Elementary School, he authored the book, “Recess Was My Favorite Subject … Where Did It Go?” He is an aggressive advocate for his students, many of whom live below the poverty level, and for students across the country. “We can help children to become healthy, happy, whole people – and have academic success.”

Dr. Chris Lineberry and his team applied for, and won, the competitive $100,000 “Don’t Quit Get Fit” grant awarded by Body By Jake Global and the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils. Governor Doug Ducey joined Jake Steinfeld to personally present the check. Now Stanfield has a beautiful 2,000 square foot gym. And they planted a garden outside where students grow, among other things, melons, tomatoes and cucumbers. Inside the school, they have a hydroponic garden where many members of the staff can be found gathering ingredients to make salads for lunch. That’s not all. Stanfield Elementary has been selected as one of three schools nationally by the CDC to be featured in a series of documentaries that will be released in the Fall, showcasing their efforts to address the needs of the whole child. And Lineberry has been appointed as a national Ambassadors to ActiveSchoolsUS, an organization that advocates for increased physical education and physical activity in our country’s schools.

All of this is not without controversy. “I have taken criticism and heat for mandating recess and implementing some of the changes that I have,” Lineberry said. But he is not deterred. His why is bigger than the obstacles in front of him. “We have disconnected from our why for being teachers and gotten too focused on test scores,” Lineberry told me with a great deal of passion as we sat for our interview. “Academics are important, but our purpose is far greater than a test score. We are promoting a shift from teaching content to teaching kids.” Now Dr. Lineberry is taking the message outside of Arizona. As Co-Founder of Core Purpose Consulting, he and his partners work to share their why message on a national stage. They are urging educators and leaders to think about students as people rather than scores. It is an innovative approach to be sure. “America has never been a leader in academic achievement,” Lineberry said. “Where we have excelled is in grit and innovation.”

For Dr. Chris Lineberry, the why is powerful. It is a journey that began over a decade ago as a stressed-out young man, clutching his chest, and wondering what had gone wrong. “When I had my heart attack I chose to change some things; some were more delayed than others. As I changed, so did my perspective on the world. When it comes to education, although challenging, it is a great time to be an educator. Educators are charged with developing the minds of our youth yet challenge our kids to look at the world and find out how they can make it better. What better way to teach than to live the example.”