Meet Dr. Margaret Wooddy, A Leading Advocate for Adapted Physical Education

April 25, 2024
Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Margaret Wooddy

Dr. Margaret Wooddy, Center faculty affiliate and Professor in Health Human Performance and Recreation (HHPR) has dedicated 45 years to adapting physical education programming to increase access for those with varying motor abilities. Her passion and decades of work have significantly impacted the lives of so many in schools and the community. Dr. Wooddy said, “I have worked for so long in this field because I believe God has called me to work in this area.” Dr. Wooddy began her career in 1976, working part-time in the Baylor University Athletic Department as the Head Coach for the Baylor Women’s Volleyball and Track teams. She later taught part-time in the Physical Education program in HHPR, which ultimately paved the way for a successful career as a Professor in HHPR. 

In her doctoral studies, Dr. Wooddy’s research focused on motor learning and development with a particular interest in adapted physical education (AdPE). AdPE creates different opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop and modify skills as well as integrate accommodations so that a person can learn a particular motor skill and participate in various activities. It was during this time that she began to recognize the many things she could do for children with disabilities and aimed to learn more about how she could make a difference in this field. Dr. Wooddy said, “It has been instrumental in helping me understand the specific needs that different practitioners should address while teaching individuals with disabilities various motor skills. It's important to note that motor skills are not limited to sports-related activities but also encompass many skills, such as brushing teeth.” 

Dr. Wooddy’s early work focused on teaching motor skills to those with disabilities and how to teach motor skills to a person with a disability. She said, “I have specifically looked at the timing and synchronization of different skills as we move through space, along with skills that require reaction time. All of these are required in many different sports skills and activities of daily living.” 

For the past several years, Dr. Wooddy has focused on providing learning experiences for students so they can work effectively with persons with disabilities. One of her courses incorporates a clinical training component where Baylor students teach motor skills to students with disabilities from Waco Independent School District (WISD) during weekly “swimmerize” (motor activities in the water) sessions. This course provides a unique opportunity for Baylor students to connect with individuals with disabilities and broaden their perspectives. Students learn how to communicate, interact, and understand the needs of individuals with disabilities. Additionally, they learn how to adapt motor development programs to address different mobile abilities. The majority of students in this class aspire to become physical education teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, or medical doctors. In their future careers, these students will work directly with individuals with disabilities, and this class trains students to develop innovative programs to meet the individualized needs of this population. 

One of the most impactful experiences she has witnessed is the perceptual changes in her students after working with individuals with disabilities. She said, “Observing students who learn to be facilitators and learn to help someone else gain skills to increase their quality of life is a meaningful experience.” Dr. Wooddy said, “I remind my students that we have a responsibility to give back when we have been blessed with much, as God instructs. I feel incredibly blessed by God and want to use my skills to serve His work. Teaching and working in this field is one way I try to achieve this goal. I strive to emphasize the importance of focusing on people's abilities rather than their limitations. It's crucial to acknowledge that everyone has something valuable to offer regardless of their functional level. Our role is to help them reach their full potential.” She said, “As I often tell my students, we must adapt to different situations, but some individuals require more support than others. We must be mindful of this and seek ways to facilitate their growth and development."

Dr. Wooddy is a great inspiration to us all. She has devoted a lifelong career to adapting individualized motor development programs and teaching motor skills so that all individuals, regardless of ability, may fully participate in physical activities. Her work is such a great representation of the work the Center is trying to accomplish, where persons with disabilities have a sense of belonging and inclusion in all aspects of their lives.