Classroom Champions FAQ

What is Classroom Champions?

Classroom Champions is a nonprofit organization/charity that connects classes in high-need schools with athletes training for the United States and Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams. Acting as role models and mentors throughout the school year, these athletes motivate students to recognize their potential, set goals, and dream big, while educating them in the practical use of communications technology. 

 

How does it work?

Our athlete mentors join teachers in their efforts to help students thrive. Participating in Classroom Champions can help students identify and accomplish their dreams using skills such as goal setting, perseverance, teamwork, and courage, among others. Athlete mentors send their assigned group of classes a video lesson on the topic for each month, which teachers integrate into existing locally adopted curriculum. Teachers and students then communicate to their athlete and to the wider Classroom Champions community what they have learned through photographs, video messages, and a monthly summary posted by the teacher on our internal online network.

Twice per year, each class and their mentor participate in a live video chat to strengthen their relationship. The shared mentoring experience helps create a supportive classroom climate and closer relationships between students and between teachers and their students.

Check out our library of video lessons on YouTube by clicking here.

 

How would participating in Classroom Champions help me as a teacher?

Classroom Champions provides professional development in social and emotional skills and growth mindset. In addition, we facilitate a continent-wide Professional Learning Network and host a social and emotional learning summit in Calgary each spring. Our expert education team is also ready to share carefully curated open educational resources and planning suggestions that relate to the monthly topics.

Each spring we survey Classroom Champions teachers. After participating in Classroom Champions, they report a significant increase in job engagement, in their ability to be a leader among their peers, and in their skills with educational technology.  

 

What are the student impacts of participating in Classroom Champions?

Classroom Champions teachers report that their students demonstrate marked increases in interpersonal skills, social and emotional competencies, and measures of growth mindset. They are more optimistic, more resilient, and also come to school more often. We know this because our research team, led by Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell Mesler, conducts teacher and student surveys in the fall and spring. See the impacts here.

 

Will Classroom Champions help me build relationships with my students' families?

Yes! We provide tools to extend the conversation about the monthly topics into students’ home lives. These include a monthly newsletter in English and in Spanish for teachers to share with students’ families. We also invite parents to interact with us on social media.

In 2015-16 we began a program for the families of Classroom Champions students with videos on the monthly topics filmed by Olympians and Paralympians who are themselves parents. Our Olympian and Paralympian parent videos are warm and conversational and help parents think about how they want to communicate their personal family values to their children about Classroom Champions topics. Teachers tell us that participating in Classroom Champions gives them a unique chance to connect with families around their shared desire for the students to thrive.

In addition, each winter classes will engage in a community service project that strengthens the school-home-community connection.

 

Applying for Classroom Champions

Who can participate in Classroom Champions?

While all teachers are invited to apply to Classroom Champions, our primary focus is on K-8 classroom teachers in publicly funded schools. In the U.S., our focus is on schools in which at least 50% of students are eligible for a free or reduced price lunch. Teachers working with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) worldwide are also eligible to apply.

In Canada, our focus is on schools that serve students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, are located in remote areas, or serve Indigenous populations.

We also work with teachers in Costa Rica and in the Caribbean as separate pilot programs. Please contact info@classroomchampions if you are in these locations. In fact, we just would love to hear from any international teachers at all about how we can help you use Classroom Champions videos as an open educational resource.

 

How can I apply for Classroom Champions?

Teachers in the U.S. and Canada can begin the application process online by visiting www.classroomchampions.org/apply

 

What is involved in the application process?

The application process takes about thirty minutes to complete. You will be asked for your contact information, some information about your teaching assignment, and the location and demographics of your school. You will also be asked to write a paragraph or two (250 words) about why you and your students would be good candidates to participate in Classroom Champions, how you plan to make the program part of your teaching, and what you hope to learn as a member of the teacher community.

In addition, you and your principal will be asked to sign letters stating that you understand the expectations of the program, should you be accepted.

If you are a teacher in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, you will need to fill out an application designed for you as part of our partnership with MDUSD. You can apply as a teaching team, or as an individual. There are links on the Apply page.

Teachers in the Calgary area who have a high percentage of Indigenous students, or who teach on a reserve, are also invited to fill out an application designed specifically for them as part of an initiative funded by the Calgary Foundation. Please click here for that application.

 

What is the timeline for the application process?

Applications will open on February 22, 2017. Teachers who will be invited to participate in Classroom Champions during the 2017-2018 school year will be notified before mid-June.

 

Can my whole school participate in Classroom Champions?

No. We have found that the dedication of individual teachers is what makes student participation in Classroom Champions especially meaningful, so we do not promote Classroom Champions as a school-wide program. However, we have accepted multiple teachers in one school, and teaching teams. Please note within the application if you are applying with other teachers in your school. With the exception of Mt. Diablo Unified School District teachers, each teacher needs to fill out an individual application.

  

How can my district form a partnership with Classroom Champions?

There is no cost to participating teachers or students. Classroom Champions is funded by a combination of corporate support, foundation grants, individual donors, and district partnerships. The cost of technology and programming is several thousand dollars per classroom.

 

Participating in Classroom Champions

Can I participate in Classroom Champions if my school does not have advanced technology?

Yes. Classroom Champions aims to provide participating classrooms with the technology for communicating with their athlete mentor. However, schools must have existing reliable internet access. The ability to use Google Apps in the classroom makes things easier but is not a requirement.

 

How much does it cost to participate in Classroom Champions?

There is no cost to participating teachers, students, or schools. All technology and programming is provided by Classroom Champions free of charge, for a value of about several thousand dollars per Classroom. We are funded by a combination of corporate support, foundation grants, and individual donors. 

 

How much time will participation in Classroom Champions require?

Classroom Champions teachers do invest some time and effort beyond their regular teaching load preparing for Classroom Champions activities, including viewing video messages, reading and posting on the internal network, and taking photographs, etc. Teachers report that they can easily slide Classroom Champions projects and activities into their local curriculum, and that they spend about an hour per month posting a summary of the month’s activities on our internal network for their mentors to read. One two-hour live online orientation over the summer is required, as is reading the teacher handbook.

 

How will I know how to incorporate my Olympian and Classroom Champions into my teaching?

Classroom Champions provides participating teachers with support from our education team, led by a teacher with 20 years' classroom experience. Teachers create their own Classroom Champions lessons that are integrated with their existing curriculum, designed with their own students in mind. We conduct monthly online planning meetings and provide a planning resources manual, but do not issue step-by-step lessons. Often teachers collaborate to exchange lesson plans and ideas.

 

Will I need to collect permission slips from my students' parents?

Any child in your classroom is able to participate in Classroom Champions.

We ask that teachers collect signed image releases for each of their students so that student work, photos, and videos may be used on the Classroom Champions website and materials, in social media outlets, and may be posted on sponsors’/partners’ websites. We do not use children’s full names in any of our media/publications unless permission is separately secured from the student's family.

Parents/guardians are also asked to alert us if they do not want their child to take part in the confidential twice-yearly surveys.

 

Our Athlete Mentors

How are athlete mentors selected to participate in the program?

Our mentors are volunteers, and go through an extensive interview process conducted by our mentor coordinator and our senior education manager -- a former professional athlete and a teacher. In addition, mentors undergo a criminal background check. Once accepted as mentors, they are trained and supported in creating the best possible monthly lessons for their classes.

 

Can I choose the athlete mentor with whom my class is paired?

No, but we work to thoughtfully pair each participating class with a very special athlete who is training for those students’ national Olympic or Paralympic Team.

 

Are there requirements regarding how often my class must communicate with our athlete mentor?

Teachers submit monthly summaries of their discussions and projects on our private internal network. Their athlete mentor checks in there to see what their classes are learning from the video lessons.

 

Contact Us

For more information about the program, contact info@classroomchampions.org.

Become part of the conversation by following us on Twitter @ClassroomChamps or liking us on Facebook at Classroom Champions.