On Fridays, Robert McQuade ’19 can be seen wearing a different cartoon T-shirt for the enjoyment of the students at Coe-Brown Academy, where he is a student teacher. He says it gives his students something to look forward to every week, and it shows that he is “never going to grow up.” A modern-day Peter Pan, it seems that a career in elementary physical education has always been a surefire thing for Robert. However, his UNH journey was not so clear-cut, and it started nearly 800 miles away from campus.
Robert spent his first year of college at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., where he excelled academically. However, he did not feel challenged to work hard for his grades. Over time, Robert became unsatisfied with the culture of the university, and wanted to transfer to a different school. It was a cousin who is a UNH alumna who pushed the Patterson, New York, native to apply here. Robert immediately fell in love with the campus atmosphere, whether it was people drinking coffee downtown or people hanging out in the Fish Bowl — a favorite spot for students to gather. Robert knew he wanted to be a part of an “active campus.”
He entered UNH as an athletic training major and struggled his first semester to make the grades he knew he could. His classes weren’t easy and, as he stood on the sidelines of Memorial Field as an athletic trainer, he felt a longing to be on the field, taking part in the action.
Robert is passionate about fitness and exercise. “When you’re 70 years old and trying to take care of your health… knowing what to eat, how to exercise, or how to take care of your mental health are the things that are going to benefit you for the rest of your life,” he said. This mantra is true, he believes, no matter who or what age you are. Robert grew up volunteering in his mother’s contained special education classroom, where he developed a strong connection to young people with dis-abilities. “I always enjoyed working with students with disabilities and making sure everyone felt included.” Robert says, “I love sports, but I always knew I wanted to work with kids, and you don’t have athletic trainers for elementary school teams.” Robert learned more about the Health and Physical Education major just as he real-ized his career aspirations. He feels that since changing his major, he has thrived.
The pivotal moment in Robert’s college career happened when he took a physical education inclusion class. It was here that Rob-ert learned ways to include people of all abilities into physical education classes — and why not doing so has physical and social implications. The class and a friend in need helped him turn his coursework into action. The friend, a teacher in North Carolina, needed help incorporating inclusive activities into her school’s physical education classes. Robert gathered what he had learned in class and sent the resources her way. “I sent her a Word document, PowerPoints, pictures, videos of all different things I’ve learned or come up with on how to include [students with disabilities].” His ideas and techniques have since been integrated into that school’s curriculum. “That was definitely my coolest and proudest moment here.”
Service is a staple in Robert’s life. This likely comes from his parents, his mom being a teacher and a retired NYPD narcotics de-tective and his father being retired FDNY. On top of his classroom involvement and student teaching, he volunteers with Wildcat Friends and has been a co-coordinator for the annual Adaptive Physical Education Conference at UNH. True to his belief in the value of service, he also volunteers his time to transport members of the UNH Power Soccer Team to and from practice and has worked with a student with autism to participate in his high school’s ultimate frisbee team.
Robert is the recipient of the 2018 New Hampshire Outstanding Future Professional Award from the New Hampshire Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. Upon graduation, he plans to teach elementary physical education in ei-ther New York or Massachusetts. He has also taken and passed the Fire Department of New York test and said, if given the oppor-tunity, he would like to follow in his father’s footsteps. In summary, though, Robert said, “I never cared about money, I just cared about enjoying what I do.” Wherever life takes Robert, as Dr. Michelle Grenier says of her student, he “will go on to serve the field of physical education in innumerable ways.”