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Q+A Ata Edralin


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Q: When did you start weightlifting?

A: When I first started teaching at Seagull. It was exhausting, and I used to fall asleep as soon as I got home. That's why I started training. With 2-year-olds, especially 14 of them, you need a lot more energy. They keep you on your toes.

Q: What's it like teaching 2-year-olds?

A: Some of them don't talk, can't hold a crayon, aren't potty-trained. Two-year-olds are used to getting everything they want. It's hard because this is their first time at school, but I can't just tell them, "OK, open your books." They learn through puzzles, blocks, playdough. When they get out of my classroom, they can make circles, squares, write alphabet letters. Some people think we're just a babysitting service, but we're not.

Students Makana Poole and Tianni Iokepa

Q: Ever feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop?

A: (Laughs) Nah, I don't feel out of place in the classroom. A lot of people are surprised I'm a preschool teacher. They think I must be a cop or construction worker. But I feel like a big brother to my students. I want to protect them, do anything I can to help them.

Q: Were you nervous during the competition?

A: About 300 people were competing that day in Laughlin, Nev. Hundreds of people were in the crowd. Some were standing on chairs. When I came out, my older brother Chico and my sister Edith were out there. They'd told me they couldn't make it. They wanted to surprise me, because they knew I'd be more nervous if I knew they were coming. I was really stoked. I went on the block, did the sign of the cross, kept repeating to myself, "One time, one time." I never thought I'd win. I never thought I'd break the record. I can't even describe it. I had chicken skin.

Q: What's tougher: winning the AAU competition or winning over a room full of 2-year-olds?

A: Being a teacher is a lot tougher. Weightlifting, you do your thing and sit down. If you're a teacher, you gotta have patience, you gotta wanna be there. No sense going to work if you don't enjoy it. Sometimes parents tell me, "I don't know how you do it. I can't handle one child, and you got 14." But I just love going to work. If I have a tiring day, one smile, one "Hi, Uncle Ata!" can fix that.

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