John Thomasson

Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health

“Many people don't appreciate just how vital physical activity is; not just to our physical health and well-being, but also to our cognitive and emotional development. Studies show that exercise significantly improves cognition, spatial abilities, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves concentration across age groups, yet we see public school administrators looking to cut funding for and reduce time in physical education programs. In reality, if improved test scores are the end goal, those administrators should be increasing the amount of physical activity.”

John Thomasson said he started his college education “like most students: unmotivated and unsure of what I really wanted to do when I ‘grew up.”

After completing his associate’s degree at Paris Junior College, Thomasson transferred to Henderson State University, but he remained uncertain about the path he wanted to take.

“I changed majors a few times, but eventually decided that, ultimately, I wanted to be a coach and try to make a positive impact, much like one of my former coaches had on me,” he said. “I still wasn’t a great student, but after six years, I finished my B.S.E. in physical education.”

Thomasson then had an opportunity to become a graduate assistant. He entered the Master’s program in sport administration at Henderson.

“Fortunately, I ‘found’ my motivation to become a good student through a combination of fear of failing and growing out of much of the immaturity that had plagued me as an undergraduate,” Thomasson said. “I still wanted to coach, but had narrowed my goal to being a strength and conditioning coach.

“During one of my master’s classes, a professor encouraged me to think about entering a doctoral program which, until that point, I had never considered. I looked at a few programs, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.”

Thomasson applied to the Ph.D. in Kinesiology program at the University of Arkansas and was accepted. Despite some obstacles, he received his degree in 2013 and was named Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year within the program.

“Somewhere during that time, my aspirations had changed and I realized that teaching was the best fit for me and my family,” Thomasson said. “I had a few job opportunities, but the chance to return to Henderson was too good to pass up.”

Thomasson said the aspects of teaching he enjoys most are the opportunity to discuss topics that interest him and building relationships with the students. He has learned that “clear and honest” communication is important.

“I try to make sure that students know that I have high expectations, but at the same time, I’ll make a sincere effort to treat them fairly,” he said. “I try to be as transparent as possible. I feel that trying to explain “why” I may do something a certain way facilitates the development of rapport and brings about better student performance.

“To some extent, structure is necessary within the classroom, but I like to keep things a bit laid back, at least as much as possible,” he said. “I’m always looking for new things I can try in classes. I try to intertwine lectures with various interactive methods, such as intermittent ‘concept’ questions, labs, activities, demonstrations, discussions, and group work.”

For Thomasson, building relationships with students is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching.

“That’s, by far, the most satisfying part of what I do,” he said. “It’s always fun when I can joke around with students in class, have a laugh, and still accomplish what we need to do for the day.”

If he hadn’t chosen to pursue a career in higher education, Thomasson said he would be either a strength and conditioning coach at the college/professional level, or an elementary school physical education teacher.

“People are sometimes surprised when I mention teaching elementary level P.E., but I’m fascinated by just how quickly children at that age are able to develop,” he said. “Most people don’t realize just how important a child’s physical development is to their cognitive and emotional development. I think it would be incredibly rewarding to play a role in setting up children for future success.”

When he’s not focusing on his role as a professor, Thomasson said he likes to read, shoot guns, and invest in stock derivatives.

Health, Physical Education, and Recreation

Contact Info:

Degree and School:
Ph.D. in Kinesiology, University of Arkansas

Improving human performance

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