Gold Medal Mentorship
Gold Medal Mentorship
Posted on 12/06/2017
Olympic Ice Dancing champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are serving as mentors to 4th graders at Johnston Elementary. (Photo: Wikipedia, Ludwig Welnicki, Derivative work: MagentaGreen).By: Benjamin Rickert, Communications Department

It was an average Tuesday afternoon at Johnston Elementary when students casually used FaceTime to call a couple of Olympic champions who are touring the world. The fourth graders in Ms. Terri Downing’s class are getting to know Meryl Davis and Charlie White — names that fans will immediately recall from the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Among other Olympic feats, White and Davis are recent world champions in Ice Dancing, and Davis went on to win season 18 of the popular TV program Dancing with the Stars.

Davis and White connected with Johnston through an innovative learning program called Classroom Champions, which helps students reach their potential by teaming them up with professional mentors. According to the Classroom Champions website, the program aims to “engage and inspire them to develop the critical social-emotional skills research shows they need for success both in, and out, of the classroom.”

As part of Classroom Champions, Ms. Downing’s students will do projects about topics including friendship, goal-setting, teamwork, diversity, and perseverance. Davis and White will send the students monthly videos to supplement these projects and periodically connect with them personally, as was done on Tuesday.

Ms. Downing's 4th Grade Class with Davis and WhiteWhen the class first learned who their mentors would be, they researched them by watching some of their Olympic routines online, and were amazed. In addition to talking about their projects, students were eager to learn all about the champions. Students asked questions about favorite foods and places to visit, and even how touring ice skaters get their cars fixed in other countries.

“A lot of the lessons we are talking about this year — from community and friendship, to diversity and goal-setting, those are all things we hope you’ll apply next year and the year after that, and the year after that,” Davis said during the call.

Fourth-grader Crystal said teamwork has been the most interesting topic they’ve discussed together so far.

“At school, if you are doing an assignment and you can be with a partner or a group, they might know the answer and help you,” she said. “When you work and have a job, you have people you work with, and you need to learn to work together.”

Ms. Downing, the 2018 Erwin District Teacher of the Year, couldn’t hide her excitement that her students were chosen to team up with Ms. Davis and Mr. White.

“These kids see someone famous taking an interest in their growth and in becoming the best person they can be,” she said.

(Featured Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Ludwig Welnicki, Derivative work: MagentaGreen.)
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