There is a lot of business stuff that goes along with running a non-profit. We've assembled a talented and dedicated team that deals with the business end of things so that the teachers, students and athletes - the stars of the show - can really shine. Meet our co-founders, the brother and sister dynamic duo, as well as the folks who keep things running around here.
Steve Mesler, Olympic Gold Medalist
Co-Founder, President & CEO
Steve Mesler is the co-founder, President, and CEO of Classroom Champions. He oversees the international operations of the organization, while also guiding Classroom Champions’ long term strategic direction.
A three-time American Olympian, Steve led his team to gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in 4-man bobsled. This was the U.S.’s first gold medal in the event in 62 years. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Olympic Committee where he also serves on the Compensation Committee.
Before joining Classroom Champions in a full-time capacity, Steve was Principal and Lead Consultant at Shift 210, Inc, a leadership development consulting firm based in Calgary, AB. In Steve’s role at Shift 210 he worked with companies holding assets of more than a billion dollars to create better organizational leaders from middle management to executives, to improve engagement, retention, and performance.
Under Steve’s vision and leadership, Classroom Champions has grown from Steve being the only athlete involved in the pilot, working with 200 students, to now more than 50 Olympians and Paralympians who have mentored more than 10,000 students across the U.S. and Canada in less than five years.
As a finalist for the International Champion for Peace award, Steve was also named one of Sports Illustrated “Athletes Who Care” alongside the likes of Grant Hill and Larry Fitzgerald. Presenting at conferences around the world, Steve is an internationally recognized leader in the world of sport and education programming and philanthropy. Steve has also collaborated with the likes of TED, Big Think, and others to increase awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning in young students. Steve has presented on Classroom Champions and other education topics at conferences in Dubai, Sochi, Tel Aviv, Guatemala, and across the U.S. and Canada.
Steve is a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, and the University of Florida’s College of Health and Human Performance Alumni Hall of Fame, where he earned his bachelors degree with honors. Steve was also named one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 as well as one of United Way’s “Do-Gooders”.
Dr. Leigh Parise
Co-Founder, Board of Directors, Head of Education
Leigh Parise holds a Ph.D. in Educational and Social Policy from Northwestern University, with a specific focus on teacher quality and professional development. Having earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s in Teaching from Pace University, she has spent more than ten years teaching and researching educational policy, teacher professional development, and school leadership in public school systems. Prior to that, she was a public school teacher in New York City.
Together with her brother Steve, Leigh co-founded Classroom Champions in 2009 with the goal of inspiring kids and helping them realize their potential by pairing Olympic and Paralympic Athlete Mentors with teachers and students. Sitting on both the U.S. and Canada Boards of Directors, as Head of Education at Classroom Champions Leigh helps guide the team’s education planning and priorities. In addition, Leigh is a mixed-methods Research Associate at MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization focused on improving the lives of low-income individuals, families, and children. Her work at MDRC has led her to working with the Gates Foundation and school districts across the U.S. analyzing the effectiveness of programs and policies for various ages and populations.
Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell
Head of Research, Special to the Board
Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Marketing at Cass Business School in London, UK and a member of the City Centre for Charity Effectiveness Trust Board of Trustees.
Rhiannon’s research is featured in top journals including Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of Consumer Research. Named to Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 and Marketing Magazine’s 30 Under 30, Rhiannon completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Alberta School of Business and an internship at the United Nations Department of Management in New York City.
She holds a PhD and MSc from the University of Calgary, and a BA from the University of Waterloo. Rhiannon’s research on technology-mediated communication, personality and teamwork, and socially positive or “pro-social” behaviors like recycling, ethical products, and charitable giving has been awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada at the Masters, Doctoral, Post-Doctoral and National Grant levels. She was also named an honorary Killam Scholar by the prestigious Killam Trust, and received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.
Rhiannon was a founding member of the Classroom Champions Board of Directors in Canada, and leads program evaluation and impact measurement at Classroom Champions International.
Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, City University London (2015)
Insight Development Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2013)
Marketing Magazine’s 30 Under 30 (2012)
Classroom Champions Staff
Senior Education Manager
Heatherle Chambers holds a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Pacific University, and taught for nearly 20 years in grades K-8 in public schools serving racially diverse, high poverty neighborhoods.
During her last three years in the classroom, Heatherle was a Classroom Champions teacher. She started working full time for Classroom Champions in 2014 supporting teachers, driving educational policy, and working with educational partners. She now leads the Education Team.
During the 2014-15 school year Heatherle oversaw the “Google Giving through Glass” project in which three classrooms of fourth and fifth graders designed a Bluetooth beacon schematic that will interact with Google Glass to guide their blind mentor Lex Gillette through the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA where he lives and trains. Classroom Champions was one of five nonprofits given the award by Google, out of more than 1,300 applicants.
Additionally, Heatherle created all of the programming around the Healthy Living Month partnership with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility for US teachers. She trained teachers in Dominica and St. Lucia as part of a pilot program partnership between Classroom Champions, FAAR, and their local ministries of education and health.
Prior to becoming a teacher, Heatherle earned a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism and Communication from the University of Oregon.
Educator of the Week (2013)
Heatherle’s writing about Classroom Champions was featured on the International Paralympic Committee website, in the US Bobsled and Skeleton Federation website, and in TES Magazine.
Web & Video Production Manager
Evan has been working with Classroom Champions since its infancy in 2011, joining the team full-time in 2015. An award winning video editor, he completed his Audio Production certificate at the Academy of Production and Recording Arts in 2005 and graduated from the Film/Video program at SAIT Polytechnic in 2007.
From there, Evan has spent the last 8 years broadening his extensive skill, knowledge and experience with post-production video and audio by working for various production houses in and around Calgary, AB. Evan brings his uncanny sense of timing and visual composition to all of his work as he turns raw footage into works of art. He has also specialized in developing eLearning courses, writing, producing and editing training videos that focused on the importance of digital media as an education tool. His background in digital learning makes him unique as he works with Athlete Mentors to produce engaging, meaningful content for Classroom Champions students.
Fascinated with all things tech, Evan has an insane passion for the latest gadgets and newest technology. His nickname around the office is “Digital Guru” as he is the go to man for anything video, web, graphics or technology related.
Best Overall Production, 2009, Calgary Underground Film Festival
Best Editing, 2008, Calgary Underground Film Festival
A lover of all things admin, Kaye Lebherz followed in her mother’s footsteps when she took her first position as a receptionist. In the decades since that first job, Kaye has put her skills to work in the hotel industry in London, England and in the television industry in Auckland, New Zealand. Kaye joined Classroom Champions in 2015 in an administrative role where she is uses her powers for good! Supporting the CEO and the rest of the team in whatever capacity is needed ensures that no two days are the same - just the way she likes it.
Kaye routinely expands her skills through continuous education and taking on new challenges and continues in her professional development as a proud member of the IAAP, an international association dedicated to ensuring administrative professionals have the opportunity to connect, learn, lead, and excel.
Born and raised in Calgary, AB, Kaye learned French from an early age both at school and at home. She now lives in her childhood neighbourhood with her husband, two young children, and their beloved dog.
Giddeon Massie is a two-time Summer Olympian in Track Cycling. His first introduction to Classroom Champions came as an Athlete Mentor in 2011-2012. With his elite international career coming to a close, Giddeon felt Classroom Champions would be a great next step in transitioning from full-time athlete and volunteered the next twelve months to support the growing number of teachers and mentors involved in the organization.
He believes that Classroom Champions makes sense for many Olympians and Paralympians that seek an impactful, yet clear path to inspire our youth. He knows first hand that the expectations of being a mentor are easy to execute around a demanding schedule. With experience as both an Athlete Mentor and as Classroom Champions staff, Giddeon provides a unique perspective and the ability to help mentors develop their communication skills and their abilities with technology. In addition to supporting mentors, he provides an additional layer of support for teachers as they learn to best utilize the resources Classroom Champions offers.
When he's not on the bicycle, you'll find Giddeon continuing to look for any opportunity to inspire youth in the community through coaching and clinics, speaking to High School athletes of Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles, or supporting healthy living and active lifestyle initiatives in elementary and middle schools in the Los Angeles area through the program "Ready, Set, Gold!".
Jill A. Pall
Director of Development
Jill came to Classroom Champions in December 2015 with over fifteen years of relationship building experience at for-profit and non-profit organizations including Madison Square Garden, IAC/InterActiveCorp, Dress for Success Worldwide and the Central Park Conservancy. A development professional whose specialties include strategic planning, event production, corporate & individual donor cultivation, public relations, marketing, and fund development, Jill is excited to diversify the Classroom Champions revenue portfolio. Jill earned her Bachelor of Science in Management from the State University of New York’s College at Brockport.
An avid sports fan, Jill can be found at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on any given Sunday during football season or, at an NHL arena catching a hockey game. She spends much of her free time advocating for the ‘underdog.’ In the spirit of leaving this world better than she found it, Jill supports a variety of worthwhile causes that are near and dear to her heart including helping families of children with cancer, military & veterans, 9/11 first responders, and ovarian cancer research.
Small town Albertan, Kate, came to Classroom Champions from the classroom and is beyond thrilled to combine her love of education and non-profit work.
Kate is a Loran Scholar who granted wishes as a Wish Coordinator (Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta) while studying at the University of Alberta. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher and jumped right into teaching a first grade class. Working with special needs children is her passion and she continually took on new challenges, including being a part of the first group of Classroom Champion teachers in Canada.
Kate shares a vision with Classroom Champions in teaching students to set goals and #dreambig. She is excited to move from the classroom to supporting teachers in working with champions.
When she isn’t tutoring elementary children in reading and writing, Kate is usually cheering on her favourite hockey team or spending time with her two “big” small puppies and husband at the lake.
Anjoli Santiago is a licensed teacher certified in Students with Disabilities Grades 7-12 for the state of New York, receiving her M.S.Ed. from CUNY City College as a New York Teaching Fellow. She taught for two years in the South Bronx as a Special Education and Arts Teacher for grades 6-12.
Prior to joining Classroom Champions, Anjoli worked as a Middle School Advisor with Liberty Leads to create robust after school and summer programming by supporting middle school teachers to develop and refine their curricula and practice to ensure that students were not only honing skills but developing a zest for inquiry and learning.
With her roots stemming from a theater background, and having participated as an educator in traditional and nontraditional settings since 2005, Anjoli is excited to have an opportunity to work to meet the needs of the Classroom Champion teachers and help make connections between their athlete mentors and their students as they motivate and inspire one another throughout the year!