Classroom Champions is Family

Through working with Classroom Champions, I have found my passion for teaching again. Five years ago, I had reached the point where I questioned my future in this career. The continued demands and mounting stress was taking its toll. Until one day, a friend shared a post of Facebook and said, “This is so you!” So I took the leap, applied, and was accepted. Now I am in love with my profession again.

Classroom Champions has brought Olympic athletes directly into my classroom and the lives of my students. Through the mentorship they provide, my students are seeing that anything is possible. They have someone who has accomplished their goals in life in such a tremendous way cheering for them. For my students it isn’t always possible to experience things like professional sporting events, much less meet an Olympian. With our monthly videos and live chats, these students get to interact with their mentors and build relationships.

Last year, our mentor was Olympic hopeful and Team USA Women’s Hockey goalie Alex Rigsby. Alex has shared her journey to accomplishing her goal of playing in the Winter Olympics, and shared her obstacles like overcoming injury. She displays goal setting, perseverance, and has become their friend. Though often thousands of miles away, Alex was always part of our classroom community, setting an example for my students that they might not see in our local community.

I looped up with these kids, and am now teaching them sixth grade. They are a shy group, and Alex inspired them to break out of their shells. They celebrate each other’s accomplishments now, and help each other through challenges. The pride that beams from their eyes when they wear their CC tee shirts is amazing, and how they expertly answer other students’ questions about Classroom Champions.

We are building a family together, and that is only richer with the addition of this year’s mentor — the gregarious bobsledder Nic Taylor. We feel like we are part of his family too, given that his wife was one of my former CC mentors, and he spent a lot of our recent live chat talking about how she is a great inspiration to him and how much he respects and admires her. Again, this is an example of something very sweet that kids might not encounter every day.

This is what Classroom Champions does daily in my classroom. It makes a difference in my students’ lives, and in mine. Although the future is uncertain for all of us, and especially for kids whose life outside of the classroom can be described as difficult and challenging, Classroom Champions helps these kids visualize their futures, and gives them skills to be the ones making that future happen. Now they know how to set goals, and how to get back up when they fall down and puzzle out a different path. They know how to build a support team, and how to interact positively with each other.

For me, beyond reinvigorating my passion for teaching, Classroom Champions has given me an international professional learning network that makes me stronger at my craft. Honestly, teaching can be lonely work and I am so lucky to have such great teacher friends through Classroom Champions. Beyond learning about things like trauma informed teaching, social emotional learning, and growth mindset together, we’ve had a glimpse into each other’s classrooms. We’ve had not only the opportunity to sharpen our skills, but also to encourage each other in this difficult and joyful job. We’ve built a real community for ourselves, despite the distance, and have celebrated weddings and adoptions and births, and been there for each other through the sad times too.

I am grateful every day that I responded to my friend’s prompting when she shared that Facebook post with me, and that I welcomed Olympians and teacher friends into our classroom. I can’t wait to see where the years take us together, and the ongoing impact on my kids.

By Ella Maya