For the second year in a row, UNM Physical Education students are being recognized nationwide among their peers. 

The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) just had its 138th National Convention & Expo in Cleveland, Ohio, where students Elijah Star and Miguel Prieto-Ontiveros were given Major of the Year awards. 

The award celebrates outstanding undergraduate students in the health, physical education, recreation, and dance professions who are nominated by a faculty advisor or professor.  

miguel on the left and advsior on the right
Miguel Prieto-Ontiveros with his award

The major of the year is the highest honor an undergraduate student in physical education teacher education can receive within the United States. Miguel and Elijah are excellent representatives of what we would hope for in the future of physical education. Both students implement a student first approach,” College of Education and Human Sciences (COEHS) Physical Education Professor Victoria Shiver said. 

Shiver herself was also honored at the awards event, as the
2024 Helen M. Heitmann Young Scholar. As an outstanding young professional, SHAPE honored her for her exceptional contributions to research in the field of curriculum and instruction. 

SHAPE is the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals, and has guided national standards and physical education since its founding in 1885. 

Star and Prieto-Ontiveros exemplify the bright future of physical educators in their field, as well as the strength of the team of researchers and professors in place at UNM. 

“Their reflections are always rooted in the question ‘how can I give the students an even better experience next time?’ It goes beyond the content, creating lasting relationships and connections outside of the teaching space. They both value community through providing service or creating a positive and collaborative environment as evidenced by their interactions with their cohorts and their cooperating teachers,” Shiver said. 

Star is a senior from the Santo Domingo Pueblo. After earning his degree in physical education, he hopes to give back to the community as much as he can, while always continuing to learn. 

paper certificate with elijahs name on it
Elijah Star certificate

“Witnessing communities suffer with issues such as poverty, a lack of educational and health knowledge, and high rates of obesity and diabetes, has fueled my passion to make a difference,” Star said. “I am grateful and honored for receiving Major of the Year from SHAPE America. My passion has always been to help everyone who comes my way, and I will give it my all no matter what. I want to motivate individuals to pursue an education, let them know they have value in this world, and assist them in succeeding in life.” 

Prieto-Ontiveros is a junior, who hopes to be like Shiver after graduating, and to inspire young, motivated teachers like himself. That will begin in Albuquerque Public Schools. 

“I want to help students learn more about the importance of exercising and eating healthy as well as the long term benefits if they continue a healthy lifestyle. I want to make sure I make a difference in every student I possibly can,” Prieto said. “I felt honored to be selected. I would have never thought I could get an opportunity to get an award like this. It reminded me of why I’m going into this field and motivated me even more on being the best physical educator I can be.” 

COEHS professors emphasize the importance of community connection with students. That’s why it’s such a testament to UNM’s teacher prep, for its students to receive this award.  

“I am thrilled to know that there will be teachers like them leaving our program. I cannot wait to see what they do for the future of our profession and the many students they will influence as educators,” Shiver said.