How cool would it be if your gym teacher went to the Olympics? For the students at Bulls College Prep, a campus of Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools, that’s a reality. On August 15 and 16, physical education teacher Troy Doris will be representing his parents’ home country of Guyana as he strives for Olympic gold in the triple jump.
That Olympic reality snuck up on his boss, Principal Wendy Erskine. “When I met Troy, he didn’t walk in saying, ‘Oh, I’m an Olympian,’” she recalls. “He’s just incredibly humble. He made a very vague mention of it, saying, ‘Oh, in my spare time I’m a triple jumper.’ It took us a while to figure out he was going to trials.”
But Erskine quickly determined that Doris had world-class skills in the classroom. From the demonstration lesson he gave as part of the hiring process, she could see his positive, encouraging connection with the students. She credits him with promoting a culture of “no fear, no embarrassment” when students take on new physical challenges.
Among the states, Illinois is unusually committed to physical education—it’s a requirement that every K-12 student take PE daily. On top of the state requirement, Noble has its own physical fitness standards for high school students. And the Bulls campus takes it even further, with a licensed CrossFit gym on campus.
“Our 11th and 12th graders have high expectations for PE teachers,” says Erskine. “I’ve had students ask to be in his classroom. He’s incredibly knowledgeable.” By talking with students about healthy eating and self-care, “he tries to talk with kids about the bigger picture, not just how to do an air squat.”
The triple jump, sometimes referred to as the hop, step and jump or hop, skip and jump, is a track and field event similar to the long jump. The competitor runs down the track and performs a hop, a bound and then a jump into the sand pit. Last May, Doris set a Guyanese national record by jumping 17.18 meters, or 56.36 feet. (The Olympic record in this sport is 18.09 meters.)
In June, he finished second to U.S. athlete Christian Taylor at the Stockholm Diamond League competition. He came away from the experience driven to take his performance to a new level. “I have to do better,” he told Stabroek News.
Doris’s bid for Olympic glory will take place during Bulls teachers’ first week back to school. Though students won’t be in the building yet, Erskine hopes to be able to host a watch party for the faculty. “I know our teachers are excited about it.”
Doris gives a measured assessment of his chances. “I would always hope for a medal. I would never say that, yes, I am going to get a medal,” he told the Guyanese media outlet News Room. “I just know in my heart I’m a competitor.”