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Image via Keith Allison (cc)

Wednesday marks World Teachers’ Day, a day set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization to offer a giant “thank you” to the crucial role teachers play in our lives. In case you didn’t know, a few of your favorite athletes also deserve that gratitude. Despite the NCAA’s educational constraints on student-athletes, there’s no shortage of players-turned-teachers. Here is a shout out to a few of our favorite athlete-educators.


Maria José Martínez-Patiño

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Now a professor in science education and sports at the University of Vigo in Spain, Martínez-Patiño was a hurdler for the Spanish Olympic team before she was dismissed in 1986 for failing a so-called “gender test.” Martínez-Patiño identifies as a 46,XY woman with androgen insensitivity syndrome, and her Olympic dismissal was a watershed moment for sex verification in athletics. She published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethnics in 2012.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq’s prolific NBA career spanned two decades and yielded four titles, three Finals MVPs, 15 All-Star appearances and two Olympic gold medals. He’s also credentialed with a bachelor’s degree from LSU, which he completed during the 2000 offseason, and an MBA, which he acquired digitally through the University of Phoenix in 2005. He earned an Ed.D. in human resource development at Barry University after his retirement, with a doctoral degree in education and a final GPA of 3.81.

Sara Loete

Image via University of Southern Indiana

A two-time All-American softball player at the University of Southern Indiana, the designated hitter earned dual degrees in history and social science with a minor in sociology. She later completed her master’s in education at Arkansas State, and now teaches world history, psychology and English at Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana. She also coaches the school’s softball, volleyball and speech teams.

C. Keith Harrison

Once a student-athlete at West Texas A&M University, Harrison now has a Ph.D and is a professor at Central Florida University. After a stint in football, Harrison earned his MA from California State University, Dominguez Hills and his Ed.D. from USC. As an associate director of Central Florida’s graduate and undergraduate sports business programs, he has partnered with the likes of the NFL, MLB, MLS and the Wharton Sports Business Academy, with research focusing on the intersection of race, business and commercial athletics.

Walter Downing

The first-ever recipient of the Illinois Mr. Basketball designation, Downing was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 and played pro ball in Europe for four seasons. He’s taught high school English for the past 20 years at Hinsdale South, located in the southwest Chicago suburbs.

Jared Ward

Ward is a long-distance runner who placed sixth in the 2016 Summer Olympics marathon and has gold medals in domestic 20- and 25-km championships. He’s also a statistics professor at his alma mater, Brigham Young University. Ward has been teaching since 2015 and wrote a master’s thesis on optimal pace strategy for marathon runners.

Steve Delabar

The former All-Star relief pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays took the opposite route from the aforementioned athletes. Delabar was a substitute teacher in Kentucky and was earning a master’s degree from the University of Louisville before garnering a tryout from the Seattle Mariners in 2011. He currently pitches for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan.

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