BETHANY, W.Va. – A Bethany College physical education major turned a fall field observation with the YMCA in Wheeling into a paid position at a YMCA in Maryland.

Evan WachterEvan Wachter, a junior from Hancock, Md., who has a minor in special education, was a lead teacher at the YMCA in Hagerstown, Md., during Bethany’s winter break.

During the fall semester, Wachter and several other Bethany education majors conducted their field observation at the YMCA instead of Ohio County Schools because of COVID-19 regulations. On days when the district shifted to remote learning, the Bethany students provided games and activities, and helped with school assignments and readings skills.

At that time, Wachter was taking courses in elementary physical education and classroom management.

“Within those classes, I got to learn how to properly teach physical activities to younger students and be able to control my students in any environment, whether it be in the classroom or in the gym,” Wachter said. “As I was learning these new skills, I was able to apply them into what I was doing at the YMCA and see what worked and what did not work.”

He said the head of the childcare center and the head of the YMCA in Wheeling encouraged Wachter to apply for the Hagerstown position.

Wachter said his field experience was great practice because he could apply classroom management skills until 3 p.m. then use elementary physical education in the late afternoon.

“If I did not have the Wheeling experience, I would not have figured out what my teaching style is or [how] to even create an organized physical activity with students.”

COVID-19 restrictions kept most Maryland schools from in-person classes until late February, and Wachter’s role at the Hagerstown YMCA was to create a school-like environment as the students attended Zoom classes from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and to help if they had any trouble with their work.

He primarily worked with first-graders but also spent time with children from kindergarten through sixth grade.

The biggest challenge was keeping students engaged in their Zoom classes. When boredom set in, they began to misbehave, he said.

“The most rewarding part was I got to know my students well and I was able to build a connection with them,” Wachter said. “I did not realize the impact I created on the kids until it was my last day at the YMCA before going back to school. Every kid did not want me to go back to college, and they said how much they would miss me when I left.”

At Bethany, Wachter is on the Bison football team, a residential assistant, a member of Beta Theta Pi, and is part of a mentoring program.

Wachter said his YMCA job was a great opportunity to work on his classroom management and to continue to grow as an educator and a person, particularly in a field like education where summer teaching internships aren’t available.

He plans to return to the Hagerstown YMCA during summer and winter breaks and hopes to work as a camp counselor. After graduation, his goal is to teach either physical education or special education.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.