County students shine at academic bowls

The Peggs School grades 6-7 academic team includes members, front row from left: Allie Spradlin, Amilya Torres, Jessica Williams, and Elijah Cook. Back row: Savannah Beaver, Braylee Beaver, Maggee Thilges, and Natasha Crittenden.

Some students at Cherokee County schools strive to learn more than their peers and can quickly regurgitate that information. Academic bowls offer them opportunities to compete and succeed.

Each year, the Cherokee County Activities Association meets to determine dates for various competitions and events. One is the Cherokee County Academic Bowl for grades 5-8, which was held the first week of December. It takes place the week before the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools' competition. In this year's ORES matchup, 28 schools competed.

"The Dec. 6 meet was the one like 'Jeopardy,' a buzzer match," said Shannon Smith, Peggs School teacher. "The written one is in March. It is multiple choice over the four core academic areas."

She likes that there are two types of competitions.

"Some students are super-sharp, but slow on the buzzer. They don't want to embarrass themselves with a wrong answer. The written test is their time to shine." said Smith.

Davis Etzkorn, Lowrey math teacher and academic coach, believes competitions help students do better in school.

"Once they start winning, it carries over into the classroom. They get motivated by success," he said.

Norwood School Superintendent Keith Fisher also thinks the meets benefit the children.

"Our goals as educators is to give our students opportunities and expose them to different things," said Fisher. "I think they enjoy it."

The Oklahoma Association for Academic Competition Tournament of Champions for grades 6-8 will be March 28 in El Reno. There are six categories: math, science, social studies, language arts, current events, humanities. They have to place first, second or third on previous tests to qualify.

"These are the top in the state," said Smith.

Oklahoma Junior Academic Bowl Association offers statewide competitions for grades 6-9.

"Some county schools get in. We have to register in February. It's more the 'Jeopardy' style," said Smith. "It's an opportunity to succeed and gain confidence. We try to help out the most students we can."

Smith said they typically have about 24 students on the teams - six from each of the higher grades.

"[Peggs School Superintendent] Dr. [John] Cox has been amazing. We have an academic class. In my mind, that's why we are so successful," said Smith. "We get to meet four or five times a week. We have written our own curriculum, what we want to study."

Etzkorn said he doesn't have many students, but the ones who do compete are dedicated to it. The Lowrey students practice every day before school during competition season.

"It's the kids who are interested in expanding their knowledge and they're some of the top students in the classroom," said Etzkorn. "They enjoy learning. They push one another."

His sixth- and seventh-grade teams competed in the seventh- and eighth-grade divisions at the county level. The fifth- and sixth-grade teams are competing at higher levels, but cannot go on to state because it is for grades 7 and 8.

"Two years from now when they're seventh- and eighth-graders, yes, we'll be there," said Etzkorn. "I'm looking forward to next year working with these groups. We're studying new information now."

Smith said the competitions don't cost that much, but the Peggs students get to extend their trip in April to an overnighter. They will go to Norman the day before and visit museums or local attractions.

"They need as many cultural experiences as possible, and we want to show them as much as we can," said Smith. "Our goal is to get these kids college bound. We also tour some colleges."

She said Peggs seventh- and eighth-graders used to take the ACT, until the ACT organization made it more difficult for them to get registered.

"We want them to get academic scholarships, and not have to pay back all that debt from college loans," said Smith.

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