Get moving

Perpetual Motion school changes tracks to offer programs to fit today’s children

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By Suzy Smith
For Blount Today

The same philosophy used at Perpetual Motion to train gymnastic students to win at the elite level is also being used to prepare pre-school students for kindergarten and beyond.

"The goal of every teacher is to bring every child to the top of their potential no matter what that potential is," said Gary Thibodeau, owner of the School of Perpetual Motion.

The Perpetual Motion story began in 1972 when Thibodeau was a graduate assistant in the physical education department at Maryville College. To capitalize on the momentum from the Olympic Games, Thibodeau began a tumbling class for children. He started with 20 children and met in the wrestling room. A couple of short months later, more than 200 children attended tumbling class in the gymnasium. If the weather was bad, the football team took priority over the gym space, and Thibodeau would have to make other arrangements for his gymnasts.

"Because of the weather and the football team is how the business started," Thibodeau said. It was in April 1976 that Thibodeau started the Perpetual Motion preschool program in a building on Harper Street. Later that same year, Thibodeau opened the gym for gymnastics classes. In 1979, Thibodeau bought the property at 1452 East Brown School Road and built the Perpetual Motion facility that now sits on a six acre campus.

In those beginning days, Thibodeau said Perpetual Motion put the emphasis on a competitive gymnastics program, and it developed into a highly competitive school that won national meets. He said he hired coaches who were motivated to taking the children to an elite level.

This year, however, Thibodeau began to re-evaluate Perpetual Motion’s direction, he said.

"I took a couple of steps back to think about what I wanted to do with my life," Thibodeau said.

The result?

"We’re getting back to our roots." He said that the school is combining all programs under one philosophy of teaching, to focus on the needs of every child at every level and to build up basic skills such as listening and self-confidence.

"Our quality stands out," said Kathy Manganiello, the co-director of the preschool. She said the school has received the highest rating of three stars on the state’s quality rating system. Manganiello said the preschool serves more than 45 children, ages 2 to 5, and also offers an after-school program and a 10-week summer camp program.

"We offer an educational curriculum in a more summer-friendly environment," Perpetual Motion’s preschool co-director, Greta McCroskey said of the summer camp program. She said they will have weekly themes such as "The Circus Comes to Town," "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Teddy Bear Picnic." She added the summer camp program is unique because you can sign up for one week or for the entire program. Also, the program offers swimming and physical education as part of the curriculum.

"All children need to learn the basic physical skills that will benefit them in all activities," Thibodeau said.

The gymnasium at Perpetual Motion has undergone a major redesign and renovations. The colorful gym is filled with age-appropriate equipment that offers even the youngest a gymnastic experience, then moves up in challenges for the older children. They offer gymnastics classes for ages 18 months and up and cheerleading and tumbling classes. Perpetual Motion also handles birthday parties complete with a large party room.

The school has a website for the preschool and camp. Visit, or call Thibodeau at 865-984-
1253 for more information.

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