School System Expands Virtual Classroom Champion Program

A school system in British Columbia has expanded a program that pairs groups of students with athlete mentors in virtual sessions to help the kids develop their social-emotional skills.

Surrey Schools received a $720,000 donation from Shaw Communications, a Calgary-based telecommunications company. The funding will enable some 6,000 students and 150 teachers in the district over the next three years to engage with Olympians and Paralympians through Classroom Champions, a nonprofit that sets up the partnerships between classrooms and athletes.

School System Expands Virtual Classroom Champion Program

Seventh-graders at Bear Creek Elementary meet with mentor François Hamelin, a Canadian gold medalist in short-track speed skating during a 2015 Classroom Champions virtual session. Source: Surrey Schools

The program uses a platform that incorporates monthly sessions delivered via video conferencing and in-person school visits along with public and private social media.

Among the mentors that have already worked with students in Surrey are Akeem Haynes, a Rio Olympic Bronze medalist in track and field; and Francois Hamelin, a Canadian Olympic gold medal short-track speed skater.

"We are so excited to be expanding this program across the district" said Laurie Larsen, chairperson of the Surrey Board of Education, in a statement. "We have heard such positive stories from our teachers previously involved in the program and [have] seen firsthand the incredible impact this program has had on our students. We look forward to building on this success as we bring more Surrey classrooms into the program."

Larsen explained that the goal of Classroom Champions is to help students improve their goal-setting, perseverance, community and honesty and as they learn from the athletes what's needed to succeed in sports and life.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.