The Team

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.


Awesome Volunteers

Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell Mesler
Head of Research; Special Advisor to the Board of Directors

Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell is Assistant Professor in Marketing at University of Lethbridge in Calgary, Canada.

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, served on the Board of Directors of United Way of Calgary and Area and the City Centre for Charity Effectiveness Trust Board of Trustees, and currently leads program evaluation and impact measurement at Classroom Champions International. She also currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Women’s Leadership Council at the United Way of Calgary and Area.


Dean’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Cass Business School (2015)
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)
Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2012)
Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 (2012)
Donald N. Byers Memorial Killam Prize for Best Research Proposal (2010)
Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, Killam Trust (2010)
Doctoral Research Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Government of Canada (2010)
Canada Graduate Research Scholarship (Master’s), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Government of Canada (2006)


Classroom Champions Staff

Heatherle Chambers
Director of Education

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 summer 2014 supporting teachers, driving educational policy, and working with educational partners. She now leads the education team.

Along with Anjoli, Heatherle presented at the Character Lab: Character in 3d Conference in July 2017. During the 2014-15 school year Heatherle oversaw the “Google Giving through Glass” project. 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 Ask Listen Learn for U.S. Classroom Champions teachers. She trained teachers in Dominica and St. Lucia as part of a pilot program partnership between Classroom Champions, Ask Listen Learn, 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.


Daniel Howie
Mentor Coordinator

Daniel has been volunteering with Classroom Champions ever since he and his wife moved to Calgary in the summer of 2016. Daniel holds a degree in recreation management from the University of Mississippi. His professional background has been working in leadership positions with low income children in a variety of ways, and running small non-profits in his hometown of Oxford, MS.

Daniel most recently was a Director of Christian Education for youth and children for 11 years, ran the local soup kitchen, and was regularly in Haiti to help with relief efforts. He comes from a long line of helpers. His mother and father are pastors and he has traveled the world helping people get access to clean water. In his free time he likes to fly fish, hike and bike all over the mountains, snowboard, and ice climb. He is also a new dad to a baby boy!


Evan Lauderdale
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


Kaye Lebherz
Executive Administrator

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. 


Anjoli Santiago
Education Coordinator

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!


Catherine Wittman
Education Coordinator

Catherine has spent her career working to help children thrive academically and in the areas of social-emotional and physical health.

After leading extended-day programs in San Diego elementary schools, she spent four years as a classroom teacher in socio-economically diverse classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went on to lead the development and implementation of the Healthy Apple Award program, which encourages child care providers in San Francisco to employ best practices in nutrition, physical activity, and screen time. From 2014 to 2016, Catherine worked for a nonprofit educational publishing organization to develop language arts curriculum with a social-emotional focus. The mission of Classroom Champions in supporting teachers to cultivate rich classroom communities resonates with Catherine's life work.

When she’s not working, Catherine loves navigating the craziness, uncertainty, and awesomeness of parenthood with her husband and rereading the Harry Potter series. As a staunch advocate of social-emotional learning (SEL), she occasionally blogs about the importance of integrating SEL in the classroom and in parenting.