Soaring Beyond the Classroom - Teacher Edition

Soaring Beyond the Classroom - Teacher Edition

A Journey of Growth and Discovery

Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our teachers found a path to resilience, self-discovery, and triumph. Mr. Andrew Weber, a dedicated high school social studies teacher and coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools, known for his commitment in the classroom, discovered a passion for running that not only improved his physical health but also reshaped his mindset and approach to life.

At the pandemic's onset, Andrew, like many, sought solace from uncertainties. What started as a quest to get outside evolved into a love for the rhythm of his feet against the pavement and better mental health. Connecting with an old high school friend who shared his passion, he immersed himself in the running community and found extended camaraderie and motivation through a multitude of new connections. He also found further motivation through a fitness app called “Strava” to serve as a motivator when he was apart from this community.

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The Road to Marathons
As a former high school athlete with an endurance background through running long distances in track and field, Andrew always had physical strength. What he lacked was mental toughness. He admitted lacking the mental maturity or foresight at this age to realize how dedication, commitment, and a positive mindset could lead to improvements in sports and far beyond. Rediscovering his inner resilience through endurance fueled his venture into running, with the pavement becoming his coping mechanism of self-discovery and the shift towards a goal-oriented mindset for his endurance love, and career.

After a year of dedicated running, Andrew aimed to complete his first marathon. His first goal was a lofty one;  achieve a sub-3-hour marathon - a Boston Marathon qualifying time which he refers to as the “Super Bowl” for endurance runners. With a friend's support, he embarked on training, culminating in Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. In June 2021, he finished in an impressive 2 hours 58 minutes and 24 seconds - a Boston Marathon qualifying time. His time in Grandma’s allowed him to qualify for the 2022 Boston race. During this time, he continued to be fueled by passion and goals, he tackled new challenges, including Nordic Skiing, which unexpectedly became a focus, intertwining with his running training. Having skied for one year in high school and knowing the significance of the necessary technique, he used skiing to help him improve his endurance, skiing races like The American Birkebeiner, the largest ski race in North America, 3 times with improved performances each year. He noted that Nordic Skiing helps him get outside more during the winter months and gives him a sense of doing something truly “Minnesotan”.

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Andrew has continued to expand his horizons and fitness goals each year. After being injured in the lead-up to Boston in 2022, he set new goals for the summer and tackled his first ultramarathon in Duluth achieving 9th place in a 50-mile race. At this point, Andrew has run two ultramarathons and four road marathons. He has now qualified and ran the Boston Marathon twice, the second time being on April 15th, 2024 where he achieved a personal best of 2 hours 46 minutes and 46 seconds.

Andrew’s personal goals have translated far beyond the trails he frequents. Through running, Andrew discovered a deeper sense of self, becoming a better teacher by setting an example for his students, emphasizing the importance of embracing challenges and adopting a growth mindset. He also emphasizes that it has changed his worldview on life. He wants to imprint these attributes on his students and make them realize the importance of acknowledging their self-potential for their passions and interests if they set their minds to self-discovery

Lessons Learned
Running became a metaphor for life's obstacles, teaching Andrew that mindset shapes one's approach to challenges. His story serves as inspiration, showcasing the transformative power of passion and determination. He emphasizes that each new challenge is a way for him to reset his focus and center himself to his community; something which has been palpable in his approach to connecting and sharing his energy with the students he teaches and athletes he coaches. As he tells his students, “When you try something new, you never know what paths it might lead to. Your approach to life and your attitude can quite literally change who you are and where you will go in life. Start by doing what you love and putting your best foot forward; you’ll be amazed at the paths you’ll find.”

The Journey Continues
To his students, Mr. Weber’s message is clear: "Passion can lead to unexpected places. Embrace challenges, adopt a growth mindset, and remember, it's never too late to start something new."

Andrew’s journey reminds us that self-discovery often begins with a single step toward the unknown. Let us lace up our shoes, face challenges head-on, and discover our inner strength to go the distance.

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