Editor’s note: Every Monday, the Muscatine Journal profiles a local figure who responds to questions provided by one of our reporters.
Tim Armstrong isn’t content to just sit on the sidelines. The popular Muscatine High School physical education teacher and coach actively practices what he preaches. He is competitive in duathlons and triathlons, and he encourages students and other community members to be active. But he has a lot more on his mind than athletics.
— Charles Potter for the Muscatine Journal
Name: Tim Armstrong
Hometown: Born in California, grew up in Blue Mound, Ill.
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Education: 1974 graduate of Blue Mound High School
1978 — BA in physical education, Millikin University, Decatur, Ill.
1987 — MS in physical education and athletic administration, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Ill.
Professional history: 1978-79 — Buffalo Tri City School District, Ill.
1979-93 — Argentia Oreana School District, Ill.
1993-95 — Worked for the Wheaton Park District and at a health club and as a substitute teacher in the Chicago area
1995-present —Physical education teacher at Muscatine High School, where he also coaches girls cross country and has coached girls track
Family: Tim and wife Tonya have a nine-year-old son. Tim also has a 32 year old daughter in Chicago.
You’re not the stereotypical physical education teacher nor the stereotypical jock. Why is that?
My grandfather was an English teacher at a small school as well as the principal. He also coached. My father was a history and physical education teacher. Education was very important around our household and in our family.
What sports did you compete in as a student?
In high school, I played baseball and basketball and did track and cross country, so I was active all year. In college, I played basketball for two years and ran track all four years. My track teammates voted me most valuable member one year. And I briefly held the record in the 400 hurdles and was a national qualifier.
What got you interested in duathlons, which combine running and bicycling, and triathlons, which combine swimming, bicycling and running?
My background was running. I was in California, watching Tonya do a tri in San Diego. I thought, ‘I could keep up with some of these people,’ and that got me started. It was a good alternative to running every day. Mixing in swimming and cycling is a lot easier on yourself than the daily pounding of running.
You and Tonya have competed at the international level. When was that?
National and international. In 2005, Tonya and I did the world duathlon championships in Newcastle, Australia. I qualified several years, but generally the championships are in September, in the middle of cross country season. But it was a good experience, competing with national champions and seeing pros too. This year it will be in Ottawa, Canada. If I qualify, I think I’ll be able to go.
How successful have you been in competition?
I don’t want to sound conceited, but I’ve done well. At the national level, I’ve done well enough to qualify for international competition.
What’s your favorite event, the tri- or the duathlon?
I’m a better runner than a swimmer. I prefer the du, even though I think it’s a harder event. I would say the standard du distance, generally a five-kilometer run, 30-kilometer bike, and five-mile run, is the best distance for me.
As a physical education teacher, you encourage students to participate in activities they can continue their entire lives.
We offer a variety of things they can do as adults, whether it be basketball, volleyball, weight training. Kids can play golf, tennis, badminton, table tennis — our aim is to have students interested to pursue those things in their adult lives. A lot of kids think what I do is extreme, but I say ‘You can do those things too, whether it’s running or bicycling or swimming or whatever.’ As a teacher, I’m always trying to set a good example for my kids. As a cross country coach, I think we could have a really good team this year and challenge some teams this year we haven’t in the past, so I’m really looking forward to that.
You’ve talked about swimming, bicycling and running. What other things do you like to do?
I used to collect a lot of baseball cards. I have around 10,000 cards in my closet. I like to fish, but I don’t do it as much as I like to. My son and I have done some fishing and hiking at Wildcat Den State Park. I’ve played some golf too. I’m not very good, but I carry my clubs and get a little exercise.
You are very articulate and seem very well read. What sorts of things do you read?
We take a daily newspaper. I read books. I’m an old school guy. Instead of reading electronically, I like to sit down and read a good book. Since my dad was a history teacher, I read a lot about history. I’ve always understood that if you can read and write well, you can do just about anything.