Gloria is a physical education teacher who’s perspective of teaching changed after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She believes that sports are a training ground where the student learns to practice the roles they will have to take in the future.

Learn new steps

Video + Toolkit. Physical education teacher Gloria Lago found a new passion for teaching after falling seriously ill. She founded a dance group where group spirit, inclusion and a safe testing of social roles matter most.



LEARN NEW STEPS Live & Learn – Stories of adult learning from Elm Magazine on Vimeo.

Never stop learning

Glória Lago, 36, from Vila Verde, Portugal is a Physical Education Teacher at Amar Terra Verde Professional School. After finishing her degree in 2004 she started working as a teacher, first monitoring group lessons and swimming for a few years.

After 10 years of teaching and at the age of 32, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was forced to interrupt her professional life. She knew she couldn’t give up, as she saw that her family too was suffering from her condition and she quickly realized how important it was to hold on to life. Even against the doctor’s recommendations, Glória worked at the school up until her operation. She had total support from the school board and colleagues.

A new outlook on life and teaching

After surgery, she started her treatments. As she started losing her hair, she started an initiative at the hospital for other people with cancer: she helped create scarves and gave beauty tips to other women, sharing the same problem. As time went by, she realized how grateful she was for the people she had in her life and all the support she was having at the time. She changed her way of looking at life and knew she had much to share with others. Then, at her local community in Vila Verde, she started a cancer awareness campaign, with marches and walks, as well as donation of scarves. The community response was great and the urge to continue was growing day after day.

After a whole year of treatments and a tough battle, she managed to recover and returned to teaching at her school, where she was received with affection. As she came back to work at school, she decided to give more of herself to others and so decided to develop an extra-curricular school activity called EPADança – “EPADance” –  an informal group of students who dance and perform for others at schools, community centers, nursing homes and other places.

The objective of the group was to bring together students who like to dance, but are mostly too shy or embarrassed to try. According to Gloria, through this initiative it is possible to work many competences with the students: group spirit, acceptance, problem solving, fair-play, fellowship, self-confidence and confidence with others.

-These competences are transferable to other life situations and are important for my students´ future. I want to share my life experience with youngsters who need to be prepared for an uncertain world, with a future of decisions and paths to take, Gloria says.

Inclusion as cornerstone of pedagogy

Since her work is based on physical education and sports, she considers it essential to promote physical activity to combat physical inactivity and promote healthy lifestyles.

For Gloria, knowing the student, and having a teacher-student relationship with empathy and trust are a cornerstone for the student to learn and improve his or her skills. With her work Gloria intends to promote intrinsic qualities in each student, including habits, attitudes and the way they socialize and behave with others. Through the development of physical abilities and the participation in sports activities, Glória believes it is possible to promote other skills, including self-esteem, controlling one´s emotions and the capacity to deal with frustration.

What matters the most is to integrate the student in a group and promote team spirit, companionship and capacity to overcome obstacles. Working with one´s conception of the self is essential, as more and more students have preconceptions with their body and fear of failure.

– I want to try to change the speech from “I cannot” to “I will be able”.

Glória thinks that when a student feels he or she has limitations, and does not feel confident to develop an activity through physical activity, it is important to get him or her to face those fears.

-Through facing fears we are helping them transport this learning to other situations of life, and also helping to change habits and attitudes.

Creating good habits

Glória´s teaching method is based on basic techniques such as following, observing, questioning, giving feedback and establishing action plans in order to keep everyone integrated and satisfied. By creating an atmosphere of encouragement and positive attitudes towards life and its increasing demands, she encourages a spirit of entrepreneurship, with a constant attitude of “learning how to do something, and then doing it”, a continuous discovery of the new and different, constant trial and error, not being afraid to make mistakes or to take risks.

“Creating positive habits” through sports and dance is a theme that Glória constantly returns to when speaking of her pedagogy.

-Only by creating habits of excellence in our youth, may they be “ready” and able to survive the modern world. Sports is one of the activities where there are great possibilities to positively integrate young people, and to achieve increased motivation and interest in an active lifestyle.


This short documentary is a part of video series “Live&Learn”, telling the stories of adult learners and educators.

LEARN NEW STEPS Live & Learn – Stories of adult learning from Elm Magazine on Vimeo.

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