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HPER programs teach lifelong wellness strategies
Jordon Willinger St John at BCC 2019
Jordon Willinger, St. John, is studying physical fitness at Barton Community College.

One thing we all have in common as human beings is the need to maintain our bodies, which is easier said than done if not armed with knowledge of how to listen to our bodies and address its physical requirements in a healthy way. Heather Panning, Barton Community College’s new Health, Physical Education & Recreation Instructor, is on a mission to make sure Barton students are well equipped to take care of themselves after college. 

St. John native Jordon Willinger, freshman in ceramics, is taking Physical Fitness from Panning, and said she has already noticed a big difference in unexpected ways.

“I’ve noticed I’m more toned and I can lift more, and I’m more confident,” she said. “The ceramics wheel is easier now that I’m stronger, too; it really helps you perform better in every other aspect of life if you’re staying fit and healthy.”

She said she signed up for the class so she can be in charge of her body and learn which exercises were the most beneficial, but the curriculum teaches way more than just which exercises to do and good form. Some of the most impactful things she has learned include time management, self-discipline and a long-term view of the role of fitness in her life.

“If you don’t know how to discipline yourself into doing it, nobody else is going to do that for you,” she said. “It’s essential for everyone to stay healthy in their life, and an hour of exercise out of your day isn’t that much to make your body a little bit better so it can serve you better.

“I want my physical body to be long-lasting; I don’t want to be feeble when I get old.”

Willinger said that while the course has been pragmatic, eye-opening and useful, it’s also been fun.

“I like doing the leg press because I can outlift my guy friend, and I think that’s kind of funny,” she said.

Willinger plans to run a ceramics studio when she is finished with her education.

More about Health, Physical Education & Recreation (HPER) Courses

Panning said the HPER courses at Barton are great for students, but she encourages the community to reach out to learn more, as they’re open to everyone and many meet only once or twice a week in the evenings. Yoga, scuba, tae kwon do, ballroom dancing, target shooting and physical fitness are just a few of the options to choose from. 

“My goal for this program is to get students to understand how to have a healthier life. I want students to not only do well in my class, but also to learn lifelong skills that will improve their lives forever,” she said. “I encourage students to explore what fitness activities that they enjoy so that they will look forward to working out. Fitness is so much more than the way one looks. I like to talk a lot about the way it makes you feel. Working out and making fitness apart of your life has so many health benefits. One of the biggest benefits is mental health. Being able to be proud of yourself and what you accomplish is a wonderful achievement that improves all aspects of one’s life.”

Story by BRANDON STEINERT/Barton Community College. For a complete listing of Barton’s HPER programs and courses, visit or contact Panning at