J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School teacher Lisa Phillips and a group of Grade 6 and 7 students exchange questions and answers during a live-chat with their Classroom Champion Kieren Block a former member of the Canadian National Sledge Team and CIS National Champion in hockey with the University of Alberta Golden Bears on Monday Nov. 28 at the Haliburton school. The group of students are part of Classroom Champions which pairs school students and elite athletes to be inspired and empowered to be better and improve their communities./DARREN LUM Staff

Champion inspires JDHES students

By Darren Lum

Dec. 6 2016

What better way to be a champion than to learn from one.

Local students at Haliburton’s middle school are finding inspiration to better themselves and their community through Classroom Champions.

Classroom Champions is a program to inspire children to learn about what skills are required for success by being paired with a champion from a roster of American and Canadian athletes. This initiative is operated by the American non-profit organization Classroom Champions. In Canada it is organized by the Canadian charity Back to School Project Foundation.

Fifty-five Grade 6 and 7 J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School students sat exchanging questions and answers in their first virtual face-to-face corresponding with their champion Kieran Block a 2012 world champion bronze medallist with the Canadian National Sledge Team and CIS National Champion in hockey with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

Lisa Phillips a JDHES teacher said this program broadens the horizons of the rural students.

“It’s been a really good opportunity for kids to realize that there are opportunities beyond what they see right now” she said. “If they have an obstacle they need to think about a plan and climb over it and think about what’s next.”

Two classes have been in regular correspondence and have led in-school and community outreach efforts in the county. They have also been conscientious about setting goals which is encouraged in the program.

Each month the group of students receives a challenge.

For November and December the topic was “community” so the challenge was to get out into the community and come up with ideas to give back in some way.

During the Week of Kindness at the school from Nov. 21 to 25 the group produced cards of appreciation and gave them to every staff member at the school. Right before Christmas holiday begins the group will bring cookies and Christmas cards they have made and give them to the residents living at the long-term care facility Highland Wood. In the spring the class intends to help pick up trash around the community.

Phillips first learned of the program on a tv commercial.

She was notified in August she was one of 100 Canadian teachers chosen to participate.

“We’re really excited to be a pilot” she said.

Phillips wasn’t certain why she was chosen but believes it was related to the school’s rural setting.

She says her students have been demonstrating problem solving techniques. Instead of waiting for a resolution to present itself her students are working it out on their own because of Block.

In 2007 Block injured himself cliff diving and has a permanent disability.

He is now a substitute high school teacher in his hometown of Edmonton and conducted the live chat from his school. His journey which has taken him from stand-up hockey to sledge hockey and back to stand-up hockey gives the group a enlightening perspective on life.

“Everything is not necessarily always permanent. He might be defined as [having] a permanent disability but as he said it’s a mindset so we’re working on growth mindset and what can we do to help us grow as humans in both our classroom our community personally. They have set goals. Step by step what are we going to do to get to those goals” she said.

Block now plays stand-up hockey with former Edmonton Oilers great Ryan Smyth on the Stony Plain Eagles.

It isn’t just the students who are evolving from this experience.

Phillips is learning as much as her students as this is her first time with this kind of mentor experience.

“I was just lucky enough to get picked so I’m kind of growing and learning with them and taking it day by day and see what comes next” she said.