M. Jeanne Bartelt dies at 89; teacher helped revise state PE standards

M. Jeanne Bartelt, a physical education teacher, was instrumental in efforts to revise California physical education standards for schoolchildren.

M. Jeanne Bartelt, a physical education teacher who was instrumental in efforts to revise statewide PE standards for California schoolchildren, died May 22 in Sacramento. She was 89.

The cause was a heart attack, said her partner, Sandra Archer.

A PE consultant at the state Department of Education during the 1980s and 1990s, Bartelt helped create a state physical fitness test for students and helped develop teaching guidelines, handbooks and curricula.

She also traveled across California training teachers and administrators on ways to teach PE that engage young people and encourage them to be active throughout their life.


“Every kid every day does not need to run a damn mile or do crunches and all that crap,” she told The Times in 1996, two years after the state published its new PE framework. “What they need to do is activities developmentally appropriate for their age group,” which could encompass sports such as bowling or windsurfing.

“Jeanne was a legend,” Caroline Roberts, a state education health policy manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “She wanted to instill a love of physical activity in kids and wanted teachers and principals to teach quality physical education and make it meaningful for kids.”

Bartelt taught PE at all levels, from kindergarten to college. She taught in the San Juan Unified School District for 17 years after settling in Sacramento in 1950. She was an early director of Camp Arcade, which is now Camp Winthers, the district’s outdoor learning program in the Sierra Nevada.

Born on July 6, 1923, she was raised in the Chicago area. She played field hockey and graduated from what is now Illinois State University in Normal, Ill. During World War II she served in the Marine Corps and was a corporal and first drummer in the women’s Marine Corps band.

She started teaching at Bay Area colleges and earned a master’s degree in physical education from Cal State Sacramento. She had high expectations but made PE enjoyable for young people, former student Linda Winthers said.

“She never put anyone down. She always allowed us to do what we could do best,” said Winthers, whose husband acquired Camp Arcade for San Juan.

Bartelt was recognized for her contributions to physical education and her support for athletic opportunities for women. She received the Honor and Verne Landreth awards from the California Assn. for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. In 1999, she was honored by the National Assn. for Sport and Physical Education.

For many years, she was active playing team sports, golfing and rock climbing.

“She was promoting fitness and physical education years before we began to see childhood obesity as a problem,” Roberts said. “She was a pioneer.”