KINGSBURG – When Daniel Albers started teaching English at Kingsburg High, little did he know he’d be reinvigorating a tradition of academic vigor and winning awards along the way.
Despite having a young team compromised of mostly freshmen and the school not even having an Academic Decathlon group in more than three decades, Albers jumpstarted such a team this year. After their recent competition, that youthful team is already bringing home medals.
The United States Academic Decathlon is a 10-event scholastic competition for teams of high school students. Teams are usually made up of nine students: three honors students with a grade point average of 3.75-4.00, three scholastic students with a 3.00-3.749 GPA and three varsity students with a 0.00-2.999 GPA. The theme for the 2018-2019 Academic Decathlon was “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade.”
“From what I have heard, the last time there was a team was 1984 or so,” Albers said. “This is my first year as a teacher at KHS and I decided to start coaching it here.”
Previously, Albers worked at Orosi High School for the past nine years and coached that school’s Academic Decathlon team the entire time. “We won Tulare County Small Schools Division four years in a row,” he said.
The Vikings competed Jan. 26 at California State University, Fresno and again Feb. 2 at Central High School East.
“We won 26 medals, at least one in every event. We also won second place in Division IV.”
This year’s Kingsburg High Academic Decathlon team consists of Veronica Gordillo, Carley Ransom, Darius Cuevas, Julio Gonzalez, Cody Woods, Thomas Carnes, Clinton Rhodes and Jack Doolittle.
Team members said the competition covers a wide variety of topics and since much of it had to be studied independently, it was a challenge to feel completely prepared.
“The most challenging thing about Academic Decathlon was not knowing what to expect for our first time at a competition,” Cuevas said.
Cody Woods agreed that the variety of subjects made the contest demanding.
“The studying, definitely, because there were so many things to study.”
The Academic Decathlon team meets as an after-school club. Most of the studying is done independently and a voluminous binder of material is provided covering all the topics of year’s theme.
“It would not be possible for one person to teach it all in a classroom setting,” Albers said. “It has to be studied by the team members on their own time. I have taught a class before at Orosi, but even then a great deal of independent study was involved.”
Students interested in participating next year should visit Albers' classroom number 83 and listen for lunch-time meeting announced as the year progresses.
Albers said he appreciates the school’s support and is already looking to build the team for next year’s event.
“Principal [Ryan] Phelan and Superintendent [Don] Shoemaker have been extremely supportive of the team throughout the year. My goal for next year is just to build on what we’ve achieved, try to recruit a larger team and hopefully, do at least as well as we did this year. I would love to see us win our division.”