High school teacher who kept Olympic gold medals secret from students honored with new track

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Teacher kept Olympic medals secret from students, now honored
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A Michigan City High School teacher kept her two track and field Olympic gold medals a secret from students. They honored her with a new track.

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (WLS) -- It's been nearly 30 years since Barbara Jones Slater taught and coached at Michigan City High School.

But as she met members of the school's track team, she commanded their attention, especially when they learned she is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, something she never talked about when she taught there.

"I didn't want to take anything away from my children," Jones Slater said. "I didn't want them comparing me with my daughter."

She is the youngest woman ever to win Olympic gold in track. She was on the world record setting 4-by-100 relay team at 15 years old. Growing up in Chicago at the Ida B Wells public housing, Jones Slater said she almost quit running, but was inspired to continue by the great Jesse Owens.

"That's why I will come anywhere there are kids because Jesse Owens did that for me," Jones Slater said.

When Michigan City High school got a new track, officials said it was the perfect opportunity to honor their former teacher. Jones Slater, who is now 85, lives in Atlanta now, but said she is thrilled to come back for this ceremony to dedicate the facility in her name.

"That means more to me than you'll ever know. It means I'm accepted. I did my job. That's what it means to me," Jones Slater said.

She has a packed schedule during the whirlwind visit, including an interview for the school TV program and a meeting with members of the school's dance team. Jones Slater coached the Raiderettes dance team when she was at the school.

"She is an inspiration," said Athletic Director Craig Shaman. "Our kids don't have enough role models. To spend a few minutes with her is great."

When she taught at the school there, she never mentioned her Olympic experience. She wanted to focus on her family and her students. But now that the secret is out, the school couldn't be more proud and Jones Slater says she couldn't be more excited.