Bergland students inspired by an Olympian

By Ken Johnston

Who could be a better role model or more inspiring than an Olympic athlete?
22 students, the entire student body, at McCrosson-Tovell School in Bergland are finding that out first-hand thanks to a program called Classroom Champions.
Their teacher, Jodi Boisvert, ran across the program on the internet and thought it looked like something they could benefit from. So she applied for it and was accepted.
The program pairs Olympic athletes with classrooms, or the entire school in this case! McCrosson students have been paired with Brittany Webster, Canada’s Olympic team in 2010 and National Championship Team in 2013. Webster is a cross-country skier.

How it works
A kind of 21st century pen-pal, each athlete-mentor adopts 3-10 classrooms per year. Focusing on their own personal journey, athletes teach about the hard work of training, goal setting, competition and perseverance.
Using video lessons and live video chats, students are engaged with their athlete mentor several times per month. Our program supports teachers by helping them incorporate these activities into their curricula, focusing on letter writing, reading, geography, math, technology, goal setting and leadership.
Boisvert was thrilled McCrosson was chosen. “We are one of only 50 or 60 schools in North America to be selected and there are none closer than Saskatchewan in this region participating!”
On December 17th the students connected via the internet, using a program called Skype. It allowed them to see her on a big screen and talk to her and vice versa.
The kids range in ages from Jr. Kindergarten up to Grade 8. Each of them prepared a question to ask Webster.
The Questions
What is your favourite food to eat before you compete?
“I like a big bowl of oatmeal with some chocolate chips and have a big cup of coffee.”
Do you get to spend Christmas with your family?
“Unfortunately I have to stay in Canmore (Alberta) to continue training for Olympic trials on Jan. 6-8 (2014). But I have friends here I will celebrate with.”
Has any other members of your family competed at the Olympics?
“No. But when I did in 2010 family members came to the Olympics.”
Are you going to Sochi to compete?
“I am competing in Canmore (Jan. 6-8) and hope to win a race and a chance to go!”
How many days do you train?
“Every day from 9-12 and from 4-supper right now. In summer I train 4-5 hours per day and a little less in the winter.”
Do you have a lot of snow there?
Have you ever been injured?
“Yes. I have had my fair share of injuries. I broke my leg on my bicycle and could not walk without crutches for 12 months. I had to have surgery and had a metal rod put in my leg. I thought my career was over, but with hard work I quickly learned I could come back from anything I put my mind to!”
How many medals have you won?
“40-50 over the course of my career but I have never won a world cup medal.”
If you couldn’t ski anymore what career would you pursue?
“Veterinarian or teacher because I like dogs and kids.”
What’s the farthest you have skiied?
“I once skiied 100 km in one day! It took me six hours to do!”
Do you have any rituals before a race?
“I am superstitious. I wear a necklace with a horseshoe on it, go for a little walk or run and eat oatmeal and have coffee before every race!”
How do you get back into a positive frame of mind after losing a race?
“It comes down to making sure you do it for fun. Sometimes you lose perspective, but I always try and get myself together so I can be a positive role model for you guys!”
Webster is currently paired with two other schools as well. The kids at McCrosson told her they will be cheering for her to make the Olympics.
She will Skype with the students at least one more time and possibly more.