If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time you know that I am a Classroom Champions teacher. I couldn't agree more with the mission of this organization. They seek to connect top performing athletes with students and classrooms from across the country.
When I was accepted as a Classroom Champions teacher at the end of last school year, I had no idea the impact or change it would have on not only my students, but me. I knew it had the potential to inspire my students, but never at the level it has.
This year my students have learned so much from our athlete, Joshua Sweeney. Josh plays on the US Men's Sled Hockey team. He scored the winning goal at the Paralympics this year that earned the US Men's Sled Hockey team their GOLD Olympic medal! But even more inspiring is the fact that Josh is a former US Marine and Purple Heart recipient who stepped on an IED while fighting in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs.
In January my students submitted a video in a contest to win an "in-person" visit from Josh.....and we WON!
Yesterday, Tuesday May 6th, Josh came to visit Fields Store Elementary.
Before Josh's visit, the entire school spent time learning about him. They watched this PBS Documentary, did research, and even created their own "I Dream Big" posters for Josh to read when he visited.
He started his visit with a school-wide assembly where ten 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students got to ask Josh questions. His answers were inspiring, motivating, honest, and real. For a room full of 700 pre-k through 5th graders, you could have heard a pin drop. And the moment he brought out his medal, the crowd went WILD!
After his school wide assembly, he spent the next 2 and 1/2 hours with my fifth graders. He shared stories from his life and let kids ask him anything. He talked about his time in the military, what it was like at the Olympics, living with no legs, learning through mistakes, and so much more.
As I sat next to Josh, and even spent some time talking to him one on one, I couldn't believe the power of that moment. I'm not even sure Josh will ever realize what he brought to our campus. Not only did he bring a sense of excitement (HELLO, he was a Olympic Gold Medalist and US Marine!!), but he brought a sense of understanding.
Most of our students have never met someone with a "disability". And to see this top performing athlete sit and talk about going through trials, doing your best, and never giving up; it just hit home.
It's been a day since Josh's visit, and still our school is a buzz. Hundreds of autographs were signed, many pictures were taken, but most of all lives were impacted yesterday.
It was such a reminder of the importance of finding ways to bring outside experiences into our students and allow them to learn from people from all walks of life.
To Josh Sweeney I say , Thank You. Thank you for inspiring not only my students, and my fellow staff members, but for inspiring me. My heart is forever changed with the interactions I saw you have with the students and the conversations I got to have with you personally.