Classroom Champions 2017 SEL Summit

We have just returned from Calgary, Alberta where Classroom Champions hosted their 2017 Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Summit. Teachers, Classroom Champions staff, athlete mentors, board members, and donors all came together to share their experiences with the program. The summit also included several professional development workshops for the teachers.

We have recently decided to partner with Classroom Champions with a grant of $50,000. So that we could learn more about the program, they invited us to join them for the four-day summit in Calgary.

This summit allowed us to get to know the teachers, staff, and athlete mentors and also to gain a deeper understanding of the remarkable impact this program has on classrooms, families, and communities across North America. Monique Sullivan, an Olympian mentor from Canada, emphasized that she believes the athletes themselves get as much – if not more – out of Classroom Champions as the students. The teachers, on the other hand, were continually sharing moving stories of how the video sessions, lessons, challenges, and mentor relationship with the athletes have improved their students’ lives.

To say we have come away inspired would be an understatement. Throughout the weekend, it became increasingly clear that each individual associated with Classroom Champions carries a deep commitment to its mission, and together they have a strong team.


Classroom Champions is a non-profit organization that pairs Olympians and Paralympians with K-8 classrooms across North America. Their mission is to connect underserved students with world-class mentors, support teachers, and engage families so children can achieve a successful future. By using video technology, the athlete is able to interact with the students in monthly video lessons and video chats. The lesson topics include honesty, goal setting, perseverance, courage, healthy living, and more.  Each month’s lesson includes a takeaway challenge for the students, resources for the teachers, and a newsletter for the students’ families.

Classroom Champions President and co-founder, Steve Mesler, came up with the idea while talking to his sister about the potential an athlete mentorship program could have on classrooms in underserved communities. The organization’s first official school year was 2011-2012. Five Olympians and two Paralympians mentored 25 classrooms. Now, in the 2016-17 school year, they have 45 elite and college athlete mentors working with 200 classrooms and approximately 5,500-6,000 students.


For the past four years, Classroom Champions has hosted an SEL Summit in Calgary, Alberta for the teachers participating in the Classroom Champions. This year 30 teachers from all over North America traveled to network, share their experiences with Classroom Champions, and attend professional development sessions.

The weekend included a trip to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Calgary’s Winter Sports Institute. Here we got a dose of sports history in the state-of-the-art museum and were able to watch as Canadian athletes trained.

Our field trip was followed by a luncheon where Mesler and Heatherle Chambers, Senior Education Coordinator, shared with us Classroom Champions’ 2016-2017 recap. We enjoyed learning about their remarkable growth over the past couple of years and hearing their goals for the future.

That evening we joined athlete mentors, board members, and donors for an evening dinner. The positive energy in the room was palpable as the different groups shared why Classroom Champions was impactful in their own lives.

Teachers shared that now, for the first time ever, their students walked with their heads held a little higher and a look of pride on their faces. Students in younger grades were role modeling to older students what friendship, honesty, and teamwork meant. Each teacher was able to identify a clear and positive shift in his or her classroom.

Saturday was filled with professional development opportunities for the teachers, including workshops on Growth Mindset, Trauma-Informed Learning, Social Emotional Learning, Student Voice, and a book club hosted by Classroom Champions staff.

As the workshops ended and teachers shared their take-away moments, they echoed one another with the belief that ALL classrooms worldwide could benefit from Classroom Champions. The program inspires passion, change, cohesion among classrooms across the continent. Classroom Champions is on the forefront of incorporating mentorship education, specifically around the Olympic and Paralympic values, in classrooms across North America.  The Foundation for Global Sports Development is thrilled to be supporting such an energetic, young organization with such a strong network of likeminded individuals and organizations.