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Classroom Champions

Assembling the puzzle to discover who the classroom champion mentor will be

Arrowwood students partnered with Paralympic mentor

Students put together a puzzle to learn the name of their Paralympic mentor during a Classroom Champions activity recently.

It’s one thing to hear advice from your teacher. It’s quite another when that advice is echoed by an internationally recognized Paralympic athlete.

Two teachers at Arrowwood Community School will have their words backed up by two-time gold medal Paralympian Brad Bowden, thanks to a mentorship program called Classroom Champions.

Heather Williams’ Grade 4-5 class and Shelley Davis Forman’s Grade 6-7 students were both selected by the program which pairs Olympic or Paralympic athletes with students for a full school year of lessons in leadership.

Arrowwood Principal Rachelle Prud’Homme says the program is a perfect match with the school’s Leader in Me focus. Both programs encourage students to demonstrate leadership and strength of character in all that they do.

“Olympians and Paralympians embody all that we want to see in a leader,” Prud’Homme says.

Bowden is a Canadian gold medal winner in both summer and winter Paralympic games with a gold in sledge hockey in the 2006 Torino Games and in wheelchair basketball at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. He was born with a spinal deformity.

Williams says she and Davis Forman applied to Classroom Champions at the urging of Michelle Salt, a Canadian Paralympic snowboarder, who visited Arrowwood school last year. While Salt’s visit was a one-time deal, the Classroom Champions program will connect students with their mentor athlete monthly.

Most months, Bowden will join students via a video recording, but twice during the year, students in both classes will have opportunity to meet with him by live video connection for a chat.

Breena Wiebe, a Grade 5 student in Williams’ class, says she’s looking forward to the live chats, and is already thinking up a list of questions she’d ask Bowden if given the chance.

“I’m very excited about getting to talk with a Paralympian,” she says.

Each month, Bowden will be discussing a theme. September began with a lesson on goal setting.  October’s focus is fair play. Other topics this year will include healthy living, friendship and community.

None of these topics will be new to students because they all align closely with principles of Leader in Me, a program that embeds The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into the school culture.  Williams says she believes the messages from Bowden will reinforce what students already hear and practice regularly at school.

“It will give us someone other than me saying ‘look at all you can do.’ It’s someone other than Miss Williams talking about this,” she says.

Hannah Smith, a Grade 6 student in Davis Forman’s class, says she’s thrilled at having a world-class athlete as a mentor, and she’s already learned a lot about goal setting, the first topic of the year.

Long-term, her goal is university and pursuing a career in law.

Students not only set short- and long-term goals, but they track their progress in achieving them.

Having a Paralympian sharing his leadership wisdom also gives students a fresh perspective on abilities and overcoming obstacles, Williams says.

One of the first Classroom Champion activities this year was a reveal party, as students used clues about the Olympics and Paralympics to collect puzzle pieces which revealed their mentor’s identity. Trista Wiebe, a Grade 6 student, said she enjoyed the scavenger hunt, and was thrilled to learn about Bowden and his Paralympic experiences.

“I just liked how he was so determined,” she says. “It was really cool. . . It just shows what you can do when you’re a leader.”

Like her sister Breena, Trista identified improving her writing as among her personal goals.

“I definitely want to improve my writing,” Trista says. “I really like to read but I really don’t like to write.”

For more information on the Classroom Champions program, visit The non-profit program was co-founded by Steve Mesler, a three-time U.S. Olympian. The program may include equipping participating classrooms with technology tools to facilitate the video chats. In Arrowwood’s case, the school already owned all the necessary technology to connect the athlete with students.

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