Olympic champion Michael Phelps has (obviously) had a great swimming coach but it was really another teacher who was front and center in his life: his mom, Debbie, a middle school principal in Maryland who has been an award-winning educator for nearly three decades.


Furthermore, she helped Michael learn how to handle attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was diagnosed with it at the age of 9, so he could make it through school and focus on swimming. Michael graduated from Towson High School in 2003 and took some classes at — though did not graduate from — the University of Michigan.

Deborah Phelps is principal of Baltimore’s Windsor Mill Middle School , which opened in 2006 and is one of eight STEM academies in Baltimore County Public Schools.

Debbie Phelps with daughters Whitney, right and Hilary watching son Michael swim in London. (Lee Jin-man/ AP)

As a family and consumer teaching expert, she created and implemented an award-winning nutrition and food science curriculum that was multi-disciplinary, and created a cutting-edge food science laboratory in which students could learn.

Her training as an educator helped her help her son, Michael, with his ADHD. She told Matt Schneiderman in this interview on everydayhealth.com that there were early signs that Michael was hyperactive, but he was not immediately diagnosed.

Michael Phelps throws his winner's flower bouquet to his mother Debbie (not pictured) after receiving a gold medal in London. (JORGE SILVA/REUTERS)

Debbie Phelps earned a master’s degree in education management and supervision from Loyola College, in Baltimore, and a bachelor’s of arts in education from Fairmont State College, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1973.

The Windsor Mill website says this about her: “Throughout her nearly three decades in the field of education, Ms. Phelps’ top priority in the school house has always been that of teaching and learning — the business of the school. Her role as the principal at Windsor Mill Middle School is to serve as a strong, visible instructional leader, promoting student growth as well as teacher growth; achievement being the top priority.”


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