Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Grayson High School math teacher Chaunte Lowe explains a math problem to students Camri Jackson, left, and Mindy Ingle, right, during class in Loganville. Tuesday was Lowe's first day of school because she competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
GRAYSON -- Lean and muscled, 28-year-old Chaunte Lowe takes her place as hundreds applaud the Olympic high jumper. She smiles. She waves.
Eyes locking on the goal, no more than 12 long strides from where she stands, thunderous cheering fades to a whisper.
With a careful pace, she pads her way through the group of students and fellow teachers. Approaching Principal David Hopson, she shakes his hand. "Welcome back," he says. "You've made us proud."
While Lowe's performance on Saturday at the Olympic Games in London didn't earn her any medals, the athlete and trigonometry teacher said she couldn't have been happier with the reception she got from peers and students at the school Tuesday afternoon.
"I may have lost a gold medal, but I gained an entire family here in Grayson," Lowe said. "I couldn't be happier about this stage in my life. I'm really excited about teaching."
Tuesday was her first day teaching classes after a flight delay caused her to miss school on Monday. Only two days after representing her country in the Olympic Games, she stepped into the classroom to teach math to Grayson students.
She placed sixth in the women's high jump finals Saturday. She earned a spot in the finals on Aug. 9 after tying with others for second.
"She didn't do as well as she had hoped she would, but we're here today to support her," Hopson said. Also in attendance at Tuesday's gathering was Lowe's husband and fellow world-class athlete, Mario.
The Lowes are new additions to the staff of Grayson High School. "They were a package deal," Hopson said, laughing.
Mario said the experience of going to the London Olympics with his wife was memorable. "The venue, the facility, the ceremonies ... were pure awesomeness," Mario said. "It was kind of tough on her though. To come up short like that ... to not achieve the goal and after putting so much behind it, that's the hard part, and it stings."
He said it was his wife's third time competing in the Olympics. In 2008 she also placed sixth in the finals, while in 2004, she did not make it past the qualifying stage.
One of her students said he enjoyed watching her compete Saturday during the 2012 games.
"Not that many people can say they have an Olympian as a teacher," said 17-year-old Jay Strickland, a student in Lowe's trigonometry class. "When she was on TV, I was sitting at home watching with my parents. Every time she would do something, I would say, 'Hey, there's my teacher, mom. She's about to jump six feet.' It was exhilarating."
Teacher Debra Brown, who attended Tuesday's welcome ceremony, said it's a plus to have someone like Lowe for the students to admire.
"It's wonderful," Brown said. "She's such a great role model for our kids. She had a goal, she worked hard at it and she's trying her best to achieve it. What better message for our students?"
Lowe said it's a mutually beneficial relationship between herself and the students.
"They're helping me take my mind off not winning the gold medal," Lowe said. "Now, it's time for me to put everything into this. I don't want to be an average educator. I want to be the best. I want to be the teacher that students will remember for the rest of their lives."