Woodlawn Academic Team honored for Governor’s Cup win

Published 7:44 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The City of Danville honored Woodlawn Elementary School Academic Team during its last meeting with a special proclamation. The team won the District Governor’s Cup in February, and then the Region 23 competition earlier this month.

Members of the WES Academic Team accept a proclamation from the City of Danville. They are, from left, Natalie Spencer, Cacee Karsner, Abigail Heath, Jake Preston, Blake Godbey, Nicholas Powell, Jacob Kirchner, Clara Cooley, Luke Hamon and coach Anna Collins (behind Harmon).

“I think that it’s important for people to know what we’ve accomplished,” said team member Banks Dunn, 11. Dunn and coaches Kylie Cooper, Anna Collins and Savannah Workman took a few moments out of a school day recently to talk about what the win means for the team, and what the team means to all of them.

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Cooper is a first-year science teacher at Woodlawn, but was already quite comfortable with the academic team — she was a part of the team when she was a student there. “My mom was the coach, so I guess you can say it is a family tradition.” Cooper loved it growing up and helped coach when she was in high school, too. She knew she wanted to be a part of it when she became a teacher.

Cooper said many people don’t realize that although it’s an elementary-level team, the kids work incredibly hard on so many levels. Many of them took individual, written tests and studied a lot of materials — content that’s not necessarily taught in school.

“It’s just a lot of outside work to prepare for those,” she said. Cooper thinks the team is a great way to challenge gifted students.

“It’s a very good way for them to get a little bit of support, and I also think it’s great for them bonding as a team,” she said. They congratulate each other, she said, and it’s obvious they’re proud of each other — something that’s great to see.

“It teaches them a lot of study skills and hard-work strategies that will benefit them a lot,” Cooper said.

Dunn, who placed first overall in an individual-tested event for science, said if kids want to “learn about all the different subjects, they can by trying out for the academic team.”

When asked if he wished more in the public would come out to watch the tournaments the academic team works hard to win, Dunn said he doesn’t focus all that much on who’s there to watch.

“It’s a full day of playing each other; it’s intense. I don’t really need any more public attention — I’m fine with just being there,” he said.

Dunn said it felt great to win. “On the first districts, the first tournament, we beat everyone. We never lost. Then the second tournament, it got a lot harder. We had more competition there. It was the people who had won at their district competitions. But I was really happy when we won. I wasn’t really expecting to win or lose, I was just focused on trying to win.”

Collins, a second-grade teacher at Woodlawn, is in her third year coaching the Future Problem-Solvers group, and said they impressed her greatly this year with their project of coming up with ideas on how to avoid food waste.

“They researched it, compared it to their own lives, talked to their family about the amount of food they throw in the garbage,” Collins said. She said it was a topic they were interested in, and a great message to take to their own families.

“They came up with really creative ideas. The kinds of concerns they came up with in regards to food waste, creative ways to solve it,” Collins said. They even came up with different invention ideas to prevent food from spoiling, like an invention allowing schools to compost leftover food from the lunchline.

“I was really happy for them. It was relatable, but something they hadn’t thought about a lot before.”

Workman, a first-year coach, teaches Spanish. “There’s a lot of natural talent that goes into this, but students can work hard and put in a lot of effort,” she said.

Workman said the win is especially meaningful to her because she was learning to be a coach while they were learning to be teammates.

Dunn said he’s met a lot of new friends though academic team. “But I would encourage kids to join it because it just helps you in the long-run by giving you knowledge of the subjects you already love, and you’ll have fun doing it.”

Cooper said simply put, they have a great team of fifth-graders, and they will be sad to see them go. “We’re so proud of them and all their hard work. They’re such smart kids, but also they are incredible people.”