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Mr. Hornung hopes to inspire physical fitness

Mr. Ben Hornung ’75 has been in education 39 years, most of them at Providence. He began teaching P.E. at St. Anthony and Sacred Heart after earning his bachelor’s degree from Grand View University (Des Moines, Iowa) in P.E. and health with a minor in driver’s education in 1979. (He also attended junior college Northwest Missouri State University on a baseball scholarship and transferred to Grand View to continue his degree and play baseball). Since joining the Providence faculty in 1986, he has taught health, science, P.E., and driver’s education, the latter two his current primary subjects. 

In 1980, Mr. Hornung was back to his alma mater as an assistant varsity Baseball coach and football coach. By 1984, he was named the head Baseball coach and remained in that position through 1994, during which time the team won three sectionals and its first regional.

He started his Providence teaching career in the 1986-1987 school year teaching health and driver’s ed, which was then offered as a course during the school year. Although his other subjects have varied, Mr. Hornung has taught driver’s ed continuously ever since. It’s a class he enjoys teaching, even if it now takes up most of his summer break – and can be a little nerve wracking with new drivers behind the wheel.

“Some people say I’m crazy, but I just enjoy taking kids who don’t know a lot about it to getting them more comfortable with driving,” he said. “I like seeing them improve and become good, safe drivers.”

Mr. Hornung also likes seeing his P.E. students improve. He taught health primarily until long-time P.E. teacher and head Football coach Gene Sartini (Hon ’93) retired from teaching in 2006. Mr. Hornung then took over teaching P.E. for freshmen as well as Weightlifting and Advanced P.E. Just as with new drivers, he said he enjoys seeing his students improve in physical activity.

Each P.E. class starts with stretching and then running or walking one mile followed by an activity, from dancing to Unlimited Pass Football. Mr. Hornung doesn’t expect his students to become experts, but he does expect them to participate and learn something about the sport in general, he said.

“It’s not a skills-based class,” he said of his regular P.E. class. “I want them to have a good time and get in better shape. Movement and activity is very important for life, and this is a good start. I hope it encourages them to try different sports and to take up a lifelong activity.

Mr. Hornung does have to be flexible with his lesson plans because inclement weather will force the class inside. He tries to hold most activities outside during the warmer months, but anything from excessive heat to rain can cause a change of plans.

Another long-time role for Mr. Hornung is afternoon traffic duty in the student parking lot. Former guidance counselor and chaplain Fr. Mike Hilderbrand (Hon. ’10) asked him to help out one day about 20 years ago, and Mr. Hornung has been doing it ever since. Those 15 minutes are hectic and somewhat stressful with students walking out to their cars as others are trying to drive away, but he said he enjoys yet another chance to be outdoors and to interact with the students outside of class.

As a P.E. teacher, he said he also enjoys seeing students outside of the academic setting and feels like the class is a bit of break for many of them.

“I like the different atmosphere in P.E.,” Mr. Hornung said. “We work on the body instead of the mind.”

And he enjoys seeing them improve their physical skill sets. He said he finds it especially gratifying to see a student who wasn’t able to run a complete mile be able to improve and complete the run.

“My goal is always to have a positive impact on the students in some way,” he said.

Mr. Hornung initially considered a career in accounting but after his first year of college realized he might want to follow in the footsteps of his mother, a long-time teacher at St. Paul. He realized he could combine his love of athletics and physical activity with a desire to coach as a teacher.

In addition to his bachelor’s degree, he earned his master’s degree in secondary education from Indiana University Southeast. When it came time for his next 30 hours of coursework, he chose to take science classes, which enabled him to teach Earth/Space and biology for a couple years.

Mr. Hornung is married to Terri (Dattilo ’78), and they have three sons, Danny ’02, Mark ’04, and Michael ’10. They also have a new granddaughter, Lillian.

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