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  • Writer's pictureVolume 82 Magazine

Des Moines, Iowa's Superintendent, Ian Roberts, is a Former Olympian and Challenged His Students in the 100 Meters!


Photo/Phil Roeder/Des Moines Public Schools

Des Moines, Iowa's superintendent of schools, Dr. Ian Roberts, clearly had a blast practicing his first love of running track while racing the Des Moines district's elementary school students in the 100-meter dash! 


This activity was music to his ears, as Dr. Roberts was a successful NCAA athlete who later competed in the 800 meters in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The newly appointed superintendent shared about his day with NPR: "I showed up to the school, and I'm waiting there. And I saw the principal and teachers, and they brought the entire school out to the track. And I'm thinking, 'Oh,'" Roberts recalled with a laugh. Dr. Roberts was initially supposed to race a second grader, who won the chance to compete against him in a raffle, but the faculty allowed other students to participate as well. After all, the student didn't want to race Roberts alone! 


Dr. Roberts at Coppin State University

The superintendent pumped himself up for the race, "I decided, you know, I can do this in my suit. Why not? So here I am in my suit and my bow tie and some Nike Air Force One tennis shoes, and I felt that would be sufficient," according to NPR. He continued, "The most important part of that day for me was the recognition that our young people, our elementary school students, were taking this very seriously. You can see in their demeanor and disposition, and I'm so happy that they competed in the way that they did," Roberts said.


Photo/Phil Roeder/Des Moines Public Schools

In addition to the Olympics, Dr. Roberts competed in the World Championships in Maebashi, Japan, and Seville, Spain. He won the gold medal in 1999 at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Athletics. Roberts also won several conference titles in college and placed sixth in the 800m at the NCAA Championships.


Photo/Phil Roeder/Des Moines Public Schools

The former track star has dedicated his life to educating students. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He later earned a B.S. degree from Coppin State University, Master's degrees from St. John's University and Georgetown University, and his doctorate in urban educational leadership from Trident University. Roberts also holds many education-related certificates, including the Harvard University Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership certificate, according to Des Moines Public Schools.


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