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Everett students learn valuable lessons from Olympic broadcaster

This year’s theme for staff and students at Everett Elementary School is, “Be your best.” As part of this theme, they’re drawing on lessons learned from the “Pyramid of Success,” a philosophy for being your personal best originated by legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

In December, Everett third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students had the opportunity to learn more about the “Pyramid of Success” from someone who has drawn on its lessons to become her personal best: Mary Carillo, a former professional tennis champion best known for her sports broadcasting career, including the past 14 Winter and Summer Olympic Games. She was recently inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Students at Everett connected with Carillo at her Naples, Florida, home thanks to web conferencing software. Students asked her a series of questions, all of them relating in some way to the “Pyramid” and the school’s theme for the year. Their questions (and her answers) included:

  • Are you ever nervous on TV? If so, what’s your process for focusing on the positive and not being as nervous? Carillo: “The only time I get really nervous is when I don’t feel like I’ve prepared very well, if I feel like I haven’t done enough homework to speak confidently in front of a camera, in front of millions of people. If you prepare and work hard, I think that really helps you to not be as nervous, no matter what you’re doing.”
  • Which character traits on the “Pyramid of Success” do you feel have helped you become a tennis champion and have a successful career in TV? Carillo: “To be resilient. To be able to reset if you fall down. Even if you fail, it’s not like you’re really failing, it’s more like you’re gathering information for the next time.”
  • Has anyone ever said something unkind to you and if so, how do you handle it so it doesn’t bother you? Carillo: “If I’m calling a tennis match and I give an opinion, there are a whole bunch of people who say that’s wrong. They write mean things about me. I just keep trying. I try not to take criticism personally. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt but I try to remember that if I try as hard as I can, it doesn’t really matter in the end what anyone thinks of me. If someone says something mean about me, that’s really saying more about them than me. They’re telling me that they’re unhappy. Always keep that in mind when anyone is unkind to you.”
  • Why is it important to you to be a great role model to us? What should we start doing today to be a great role model for other people? Carillo: “All I ever wanted to teach my kids is to treat each other well, to have respect for themselves, to have respect for others. I work on those same things every single day. You start being a role model already at your age. Even if you don’t know it, there are probably other kids who are looking at you and thinking, ‘Yeah, I want to be like her.’”
  • What characteristics do you admire most in all the professional and Olympic athletes that you’ve met and that make them champions of character? Carillo: “They’ve worked so hard. They have such dedication. If they stumble and fail, they show resilience. But you don’t have to be an athlete to be that way. That’s my favorite characteristic in athletes and in anyone - in fifth-graders, too.”

Everett Principal Mike Long spent part of the time during the web assembly walking from classroom to classroom observing students as they listened to Carillo.

“The amount of student engagement and the focus right now for this assembly, I want to compliment the students,” Long said before they signed off with Carillo. “They’ve done such a great job.”

More from Everett Principal Mike Long about how the school is incorporating the "Pyramid of Success" into its daily instruction:

"The 'Pyramid of Success' embodies the belief that all students can achieve their own personal best. Specialists are using the story 'Inch and Miles' to focus on specific character traits each month. Classroom teachers also use the story to assist in teaching our students these essential character traits to help them to become respectful citizens who are able to handle daily responsibilities and rules. Our goal is to provide our students with the skills they need to make good decisions and be kind and helpful citizens. The 'Pyramid of Success' recognizes students who demonstrate positive character traits and are thriving to become their personal best. Students also have individual posters with the 15 blocks of the 'Pyramid of Success' to reference throughout the day."


Published: January 3, 2019, Updated: January 8, 2019

"I try not to take criticism personally. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt but I try to remember that if I try as hard as I can, it doesn’t really matter in the end what anyone thinks of me. If someone says something mean about me, that’s really saying more about them than me. They’re telling me that they’re unhappy. Always keep that in mind when anyone is unkind to you."

Olympic broadcaster and former tennis pro Mary Carillo, speaking recently to Everett Elementary School students