From teacher's Paralympic pursuits, Bollman Bridge Elementary students learn to 'try and try'

Before watching her new fourth-grade teacher swim in the 2016 Paralympic Games, Angelique Gomez was thinking about giving up on piano.

"You have to try and try and try, and it's a lot to learn," she said about playing the instrument.


But if there is one thing that Angelique and her classmates at Bollman Bridge Elementary have learned from watching Cortney Jordan compete in Rio de Janeiro, it is perseverance.

"They're not necessarily able to do everything that we can do, like yesterday we watched some swimming and some people couldn't get out of the pool by themselves. But they could swim," said fourth-grader Grace Haber. "It shows that those people have a lot of determination."

Jordan, who was born with cerebral palsy, doesn't have use of her left leg and her left arm is weaker than her right. That didn't stop the Henderson, Nev., native from swimming her way to eight medals in the past two Paralympic games.

"She tries her best at everything," Angelique said of the teacher she has not met yet.

Jordan was hired by Howard County Public School System on Aug. 25 and departed for the 2016 Games before school started on Aug. 28. Her math co-teacher, Olga Lloyde, is teaching her students in her absence and has been broadcasting Jordan's races and other Paralympics events during class.

"This is a great opportunity for the kids and for us all," Lloyde said. "I believe that when you let your light shine, you give permission to others for their light to shine. It's just breaking down barriers for all people, for everyone to realize that you do have access to greatness, despite anything."

Friday morning, the students watched their teacher swim in the semifinals of the 100-meter freestyle race. They chanted, "Jordan! Jordan!" in rhythmic unison, chanting faster and faster as the competitors neared the finish. Quiet took over the room before the results were announced.

Cortney Jordan, a fourth-grade teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary in Jessup, will swim in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro next month.
Cortney Jordan, a fourth-grade teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary in Jessup, will swim in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro next month. (Submitted photo)

Jordan had taken third place and would move onto the finals later that afternoon. The students jumped up in their chairs, cheering and clapping.

"It makes me feel like I have no excuse to follow my dreams or to follow the things that I want to do," Lloyde told the class afterward. "It makes me feel excuseless."

Lloyde asked the students what they had learned from watching Jordan.

"That it must be harder to get into the Paralympics than it is to get into the Olympics, because the [Paralympians] have to get past something that they might find difficult and frustrating," said fourth-grader William Hancock.

Student Jayden Dixon said he learned that people who have disabilities "can do the same things that other people can do."

Jordan, who moved to Baltimore from Colorado three years ago to train with a Loyola University coach, went on to win silver in the 100-meter freestyle event on Friday afternoon. She had won two silver medals and a bronze medal earlier that week.

"I'm definitely proud of her," Lloyde said. "And I'm looking forward to meeting her for the first time, too."


Bollman Bridge students and staff expect to welcome Jordan back on Sept. 21.

In the meantime, Jordan's student, Angelique, said she is reconsidering quitting the piano.

"Perseverance means you keep trying and trying and trying, until you succeed," she said.