The Online Magazine of the Academic Games Leagues of America
|News & Notes||Alumni Spotlight||Coach Profile||Down Memory Lane||Past AGazines|
News and Notes
Calendar: Academic Games Events
To see all of our of upcoming events, visit our Calendar page. If your league’s events are not listed, please send us your schedule.
Alumni Spotlight: Judge Julie
Julie Becker played Academic Games at Renaissance High School in Detroit, MI. Among her many accomplishments as a player were the following:
She coached Academic Games while in college at Michigan and did it so well she received an Outstanding Educator Award at the 1996 AGLOA National Tournament.
Julie received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1996 and then a law degree from Yale Law School in 1999. In 1999-2000 she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, now a member of the U.S. Supreme Court but then on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
She then became a member of the staff of The Legal Aid Society of the District Columbia and in 2006 received the National Housing Law Project’s Housing Justice Award which is given nationally to an advocate for success in “tackling the systemic and often hostile obstacles that stand in the way of safe, decent, and affordable housing for low-income and marginalized people.”
Starting in 2007, Julie became the supervising attorney at the D. C. Legal Aid Society. In 2009, the National Law Journal listed her as one of 40 “game-changing lawyers age 40 and under” who have already made a mark and are expected to be leaders in the profession.
In 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Becker to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Hearings on her nomination were held before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Her nomination was confirmed on a voice vote of the U.S. Senate June 23, 2016.
Coach Profile: Heather Davidson
Heather Davidson is a Pennsylvania representative on the AGLOA Tournament Council. She got involved in Academic Games twelve years ago when she was asked to become the K-8 gifted coordinator for the Grove City School District. Academic Games came along with the job.
She knew a little about Presidents because her brother had played in high school. But I didn’t know anything about the whole Nationals stage.
When she took over the job, her students played only Equations and Propaganda in addition to Presidents. After bringing students to the national tournament in Baton Rouge that year, Heather went back home and said, We need to do this. And the kids said, “We need to do this.”
She added LinguiSHTIK and World Events after the first year and On-Sets after the second. She found Propaganda the easiest game to get into, in part because she had several students who were really good at it and they taught her. And since history was her first love, Presidents was straightforward.
And the hardest game to get into? Absolutely On-Sets. I didn’t even try it the first year. The second year, I tried to pick it up but didn’t understand it at all. I asked Jeff McNeish from Mohawk High, “Please come teach my kids.” They picked it up instantly, and I learned from them. It took me three years to really pick it up, but now I like it more than Equations.
She started out with students in Elementary and Middle Divisions. I had 8th graders who went to Nationals who had not gone before. They wanted to continue in high school, but the high school guy said, “Academic games are stupid.” So I went to the school board and said, “They really want to do it. I’m willing to take over Academic Games in the high school, and I’m not even asking for more pay.” They said, “Go for it.” I knew nothing about the high school rules, especially in the math games. But the kids said, “We’ll learn it and teach you.”
In a testimonial she wrote for the AGLOA website, Heather recalled her trepidation: When I was first thrown into the gifted job three years ago, the thing I was most worried about was Academic Games. I didn’t know anything about them and didn’t think I would EVER learn to play them, let alone enjoy them. After three years, I have grown to love Academic Games more than any other activity that we do.
The IU4 (Intermediate Unit 4) League, in which Heather’s students participate, consists of twenty-eight schools in four counties in Western Pennsylvania.
She requires all students in her gifted program (grades 2-8) to participate in Academic Games but must choose which ones to bring to the tournaments at Slippery Rock University since each school is limited to 25 participants.
But in other districts, such as Mercer, Academic Games is an after-school activity. And Jeff McNeish in the Mohawk School District has both gifted students and after-school participants.
At another school, gifted kids are not allowed to practice the games during the school day because they were told they weren’t educational. So they have to do it after school.
The IU4 League conducts six tournaments, each of which is held during a school day. That is the same approach followed by the Western Pennsylvania Academic Games League (WPAGL) in the Pittsburgh area. However, the third league in the Keystone State, Beaver County, conducts their tournaments on Saturdays since the district no longer permits students to miss school days. For that same reason, Beaver no longer participates in the Pennsylvania State Tournament with qualifiers from IU4 and WPAGL.
Heather is proud of the fact that she brought World Events to her district.
How did she get that bug? The IU4 coaches meet several times a year. I attended the fall meeting, and they’re going over all these games, including World Events. The person sitting next to me said, “Come watch it.” The district let me go to the tournament. The theme was Australia. Since I wanted to be a social studies teacher growing up, I thought, “This is right up my alley. This is awesome.” I told the school board I wanted to do World Events. They said, “As long as the parents are happy, do whatever you want.”
So she went to the Social Studies meeting at the next Nationals. The new topic was the 1970s. I went back so excited, and the kids got excited. We’ll wear peace signs and dress up in ’70s clothes. “Can we study over the summer?” they asked. “Can you get the book started now?” We all went to the tournament dressed up, and they said, “This is the best game ever. We love this game.”
She faces the usual questions about whether academic “games” are educational.
We worked really hard in IU4 because we’re getting a lot of flak from the school districts that we’re not educationally sound. It’s just fun. It’s games. So we sat down with the Common Core standards and actually made a document that matched Academic Games to Common Core. You may think we’re playing games, but we’re not. It’s a fun way to do Common Core. At times, I don’t even use the word “games” but call it “academic competition.” We were applying Common Core principles long before they came out. We were doing this 50 years ago.
But the decrease in funding that affects educational programs across the nation is having an effect. Our IU4 is not willing to add another game to our schedule because of the cost – $10 per kid per competition. A lot of districts are starting to cut how many games kids can go to.
Heather also enjoys coaching Propaganda.
I save the magazines from the school library. I have the students take magazines home. Everyone has to come in with three techniques that you found in the magazine. Or come up with three techniques you saw on TV. Bring them in and share them with the class.
My high school kids who have graduated say, “Of all the games we played, Propaganda is the one we needed the most because we use it all the time in college.” One of the kids said his professor asked questions about propaganda, and he raised his hand and started spewing all this information, and the rest of the students are just looking at him. “Where did you learn that?” the professor asked. “I played Academic Games.” “Why isn’t everybody playing Academic Games?” the prof responded.
Down Memory Lane
Void Where Prohibited, Palm Beach County FL
L-R: Brian Mieran, Baru Ramachandran, Chad Hood, Jay Eng
Back: John Bollinger
Carnival Round-Ups, New Orleans LA
Front: Amie Crago, Brian Roundhill
Back: Todd Bruno, Tymothi Tombar, Christian Galindo
Bates Hamburger “B”, Detroit MI
Front: Sumi Aggarwal, Bobbie Roberts, Kayla Jenkins
Back: Bobby Moore, Ingrid Ehrbar, Coach Chris Holstein
KFF WFF, Jefferson Parish LA
Front: Brian Veprek, Michael Verderome
Middle: Pete Cannizzaro, Christian Abernathy, Gale Rogers
Back: Coach Don Shannon