6 Olympians who became educators

When they aren't competing, Olympic athletes work regular jobs in a number of industries — including education.

This might seem like a no-brainer, as many former athletes end up as coaches, athletic directors, and P.E. instructors at all levels of the education system. Let's not put them in a box, though: These world-class athletes often have world-class smarts that go beyond the field of play. Some have moved on to teach everything from elementary school to high school math and science, while others have worked as administrators or founded organizations focused on working with students in underprivileged schools. 

Read on to learn more about these 6 Olympians who became educators.

1. Dave Johnson

After the end of his competitive career, Olympic decathlete Dave Johnson served for two years as vice principal and director of athletics for Jefferson High School. He was later the director of athletics for two years at South Salem High School before holding the same position at Corban College, which he left in 2012. He is currently a volunteer assistant on Oregon State University's track & field staff

Johnson has also spent time as an inspirational speaker, and his story likely inspired numerous students he encountered in his educational and athletic roles. After all, not only did he overcome Osgood-Schlatter disease (which affects the knees) during his youth, but he won the bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics on a broken foot.

2. Chaunte Lowe


Now a math teacher, Chaunte Lowe competed in the high jump in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Summer Olympics. Though she hasn't won any Olympic medals, Lowe does hold the American women's high jump records for both indoors and outdoors. She completed a bachelor's degree at Georgia Tech in 2008 and earned her M.A. in Teaching Mathematics from Western Governors' University online while training for 2012. She began teaching trigonometry at Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., that fall.

3. Steve Mesler

American bobsled gold medalist Steve Mesler is the president and CEO of Classroom Champions, an organization that connects students at high-needs schools with Olympic athletes. He founded the company with his sister, Leigh Mesler Parise, who is an education Ph.D. According to one fifth grade teacher in Philadelphia, the program has noticeably improved work ethic and motivation among her students. Mesler is also a TED-Ed educator and speaker.

4. Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games, and was known as "The Black Gazelle" and "The Black Pearl" by the Italians and French, respectively. Hers was another story of perseverance, as she overcame polio to win three gold medals in 1960 and a bronze in 1956. The one-time fastest woman in the world later earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Tennessee State University and went on to teach second grade at Cobb Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. During that time, she also coached track at Burt High School. 


5. Elana Meyers


From 2008 to 2012, American bobsled medalist Elana Meyers was a substitute teacher for Georgia's Douglas County Board of Education. She also serves as an athlete mentor for Classroom Champions.

6. Jeff Isaacson

When he isn't competing, Olympic curler Jeff Isaacson teaches science at Gilbert Junior High School in Gilbert, Minn. He has competed in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. Prior to leaving for this year's games, the school gave him a gold medal ceremony send-off.


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Filed Under: Higher Ed K12