Olympic Gold Medalists Honors Former Teacher on the Medal Podium

By SchoolStatus 3 min

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Over the past few weeks, U.S.A. swimmer Caleb Dressel proved to be a dominant force at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As it turns out, he credits much of his mental success to his former math teacher.

If you’ve paid close attention you may have noticed the seven-time gold medalist often holding on to a blue bandana. In fact, he’s even pictured holding it while standing on the medal podium.

That bandana once belonged to Claire McCool, one of Dressel’s math teachers at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs, Florida.

McCool taught Dressel his freshman year of high school, but her impact on him was far more than academic.

Dressel was a rising star in the world of swimming throughout high school, but when he was 17 years old, he took a break from the pool.

“I don’t regret taking time off at all. It was really hard getting back into shape, back into the groove,” he told Yahoo Sports a few months back.

“I needed the mental break … I was a 17-year-old kid, a top recruit coming out of high school, a lot of talk around me about expectation. I wasn’t used to that. I was like any high schooler, trying to figure out my life … Who knows where I’d be if I didn’t take that break?”

During that difficult time, Dressel leaned heavily on McCool for advice.

Dressel called McCool his “life teacher.”

McCool was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She watched as Dressel established his dominance, winning two golds in Rio and then an astounding seven golds in the 2017 worlds in Budapest. Soon after that, though, she succumbed to cancer.

Her husband Mike presented Caeleb with one of her workout bandannas, and he’s kept it with him ever since.

“The bandanna is very significant,” he says. “It’s a piece of her that I’m always going to have, one physical piece that I have left of her.”

In Episode 199 of Class Dismissed, we discuss how teachers like McCool can have major impacts on students’ lives.

We also speak with Prakash Nair, the Founding President and CEO of Education Design International and author of  “Learning by Design: Live Play Engage Create”. Nair explains how and why spent years designing schools the wrong way.

To hear some of Nair’s solutions for a better-designed school, listen to Episode 199 of Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.

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