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Colleagues and Friendship keeps Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy's Academic Games Team Going Strong

Academic Games coaches

How long have both of you been coaching Academic Games together at Sampson-Webber? How long how you been coaching overall?

Lashon Clay and I have been coaching at Sampson-Webber since 2014. 

Ms. Clay has been coaching Academic Games for 17 years. Ms. Gisstennar has been coaching since 2014.

Together, we make a good team. We encourage each other and give one another support. We know how to balance each other out. Ms. Clay and I both come from diverse backgrounds and use that knowledge to make coaching Academic Games fun for both of us. I am patient and consistent according to my partner and she is consistent and well balanced when it comes to the games. We back each other up. If we have any issues, we work them out together. That makes for an excellent coaching team. We are more than just colleagues, we are friends. Before the pandemic, we would sometimes hang out and go places together. We’d often break bread together and just have great conversations about our lives.

How do you recruit your students?

One way we recruit our students is by simply asking them verbally if they wish to join our Academic Games team.  Another way we recruit our students is by sending home an invitation and asking if students in grades 3-8 if they would like to participate.  Lastly, we recruit our students by making a school-wide announcement during our morning meetings.

How has the current COVID-19 crisis affected your coaching? What challenges have you encountered?

One way the COVID-19 crisis has affected our coaching is by having us venture out and play other variations of Academic Games.  We have had to switch to virtual which is quite a challenge, especially having to play equations on-line.  We have had to learn how to keep our team both engaged and interested in playing the other games.  Another challenge has been to see to it that students have access to playing in the tournaments.  We have had to teach them how to use Zoom, find links and ways to log in while we are not physically present as their coach. Technology is not always available to our students and access to wi-fi has also been an issue. 

How does Academic Games affect your students? What benefits do you see in your students?

Academic Games affects our students by teaching them how to compete with other students in a positive way. The tournaments help to enhance their skills. For example, by playing the game of equations it increases their math skills and forces them to use higher-order thinking skills when solving equations.  Furthermore, it gives students the opportunity to help their peers understand math when they are struggling to understand the concepts.  Lastly, it helps motivate students to keep a positive attitude when completing math classes throughout their education.  It also teaches them how competition can be done in a healthy way.

Have your teams ever competed at the States Super tournament?  If so, how important is that for your students to attend State competitions?

Our middle school team has competed in the Super Tournament for several years.  It is very important to them.  They love to attend. They earn the trip by attending each local tournament and mostly every practice.  The experience is something they look forward to and the students enjoy going to another part of the state and competing against students from all over the state.  It teaches them responsibility because they are going on an overnight trip.  They are given an opportunity to experience a real-life situation outside of the confines of home and school. 

Has either of you played Academic Games, sports, or other activities when you were in school? If yes, did that have an influence on your coaching today?

We both played sports in school, basketball, softball, tennis and we really enjoyed it.  Participating in sports helped to shape our own coaching skills.  We learned the importance of teamwork, participation, and good sportsmanship.  We use the same principles in coaching our own teams.   ​​​​​​​

All in all, coaching Academic Games has been an honor for us.  We love working with the kids and teaching them these valuable lessons.  The students do not realize that we love it just as much as they do.  We get the opportunity to learn, as well as they do.  The crisis we are in has not stopped our momentum it has only given us the opportunity to adapt to the challenge and we have done just that.