Utah teacher inspires students with her passion for the 2002 Winter Olympics

Apr 16, 2024, 6:34 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm

SANDY — As the world prepares to mark 100 days until the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics, Utah inches closer to a potential announcement that the games will return to the Beehive State in 2034.

A few days ago, the International Olympic Committee wrapped up their tour of Utah by visiting Olympic venues. But perhaps they should have also visited Indian Hills Middle School in Sandy, to see how passionate Utahns are about the games.

“I love everything to do with the games,” said Amy Shaw, a teacher for Indian Hills Middle School.

In room 215, you’ll find Shaw’s Utah Studies classroom, but you’ll also find a teacher who is passionate about the 2002 Winter Olympics.

“Obviously, I’m into history or I wouldn’t be a history teacher, but also, being here in Utah during the 2002 Olympics, I was alive, I was here, I was a young kid, so I don’t remember a lot, but I was a part of it,” Shaw said.

Shaw's classroom decorated in 2002 Olympic gear.

Shaw’s classroom decorated in 2002 Olympic gear. (KSL TV)

For two weeks, Shaw will display her love of the games for her students as she teaches about their impact on Utah. And that display is impressive.

Shaw has spent years collecting 2002 Winter Olympic memorabilia, everything from an official torch to a variety of official Olympic clothing.

“The kids have joked that I need to open my own museum; I think I have more than they have in the museum in Park City,” she said. “There is just something about touching history; I had one girl that wanted to touch the torch so bad; she was like, I just want to feel a piece of history. There is just something so cool about connecting with it in that way.”

A 2002 Winter Games Olympic torch.

A 2002 Winter Games Olympic torch. (KSL TV)

If there is one thing that Shaw’s students love learning about, it’s her Olympic trading pins. She’s collected hundreds of them and put them on display in her classroom on Tuesday.

“Collecting is a huge part of the Olympics, and it is one of the most popular parts of an Olympic games, collecting brings people together from all over the world,” Shaw told her 1st period class. “If you’re an athlete, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, which language you speak, anybody can trade pins, all you have to do is point.”

Perhaps the most popular pin designed for the 2002 Winter Games featured Utah’s famous green Jello. When students asked if Shaw had any green Jello pins, she smiled and then pulled a small blanket off a table, revealing a case full of them.

“I really liked the Jello pin,” said student Caitlin Howard. I think it’s super cool because no one else gets to see this stuff.”

Jell-O pins from the 2002 Winter Games.

Jell-O pins from the 2002 Winter Games. (KSL TV)

As part of Shaw’s Olympic curriculum, students have worked on their own Olympic proposal for the 2034 games each day, creating a theme, logo, medals, cauldron, uniforms, pictograms, and collectibles.

“I have an I-15 pin, and I have a Stanley mug pin,” said student Channing Butler.

“My mascot is Deseret because that’s what Utah used to be, and it’s a deer because you find those pretty often,” Howard said. “And with the logo, there is so much symbolism in it that you wouldn’t think about.”

A snow globe from the 2002 Winter Olympics.

A snow globe from the 2002 Winter Olympics. (KSL TV)

“Each of their designs must include aspects of Utah’s history, culture, and/or geography,” Shaw said. “I want them to think of how Utah’s culture is on display, everything to do with Utah’s history, everything we’ve learned all year is a part of that, and how much work goes into the Olympic games.”

The students in Shaw’s class said they love how she teaches about this important moment in Utah history and appreciate the effort she’d made to share her collectibles with them.

“It makes me excited for the future Olympics and I appreciate how much work was put into all the stuff,” Bulter said.

“I think it gets the kids more engaged and more involved, they’re like oh, I can see and touch it, it’s not just words I’m hearing,” Shaw said.

Shaw's classroom decorated in 2002 Olympic gear.

Shaw’s classroom decorated in 2002 Olympic gear. (KSL TV)

In turn, Shaw said she’s excited about the role her students may play in Utah’s future games.  She hopes they remember the lessons they’ve learned in her class and will look for opportunities to be a part of them.

“They’re going to be a part of this next Olympic games. They’re going to be alive, they’re going to go to the events, they might volunteer,” said Shaw. “It’s kind of cool to for them to know the whole world is watching this event and they’re going to be a part of it.”

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Utah teacher inspires students with her passion for the 2002 Winter Olympics