Logan teacher Tierra Jackson and her former student—Skyline senior David Lee—are honored during the Michigan League of Academic Games States Super Tournament

Students from Logan, Thurston, Clague, and King excel in state finals

Left to right: Tierra Jackson, Skyline senior David Lee (winner of the Laemen Allen Outstanding Senior Award), Eric Nelson, the longtime coach of the Clague Middle School team, member of the MLAG executive board, and an AAPS grad himself. Nelson presented Jackson with her award.

Logan Elementary third grade teacher Tierra Jackson was awarded the Michigan Leagues of Academic Games‘ Hal Hauer Volunteer Award at MLAG’ 48th annual state tournament. The award recognizes her outstanding dedication and teaching talent as head coach of the Logan /Thurston Academic Games team.

Academic Games test student knowledge in math, English, social studies, and logic, with the goal of making learning fun.

Jackson’s assistant coach, Skyline senior David Lee—who was in Jackson’s third grade class nine years ago—won the Laemen Allen Outstanding Senior Award. At an awards ceremony, he was lauded for his exceptional skills both as a competitor and leader.

Jackson has been an Academics Games coach for five years and applauded David’s achievements.

“So he not only helped our teams get ready for states, but had to practice and prepare with his own team and is competing as we speak,” she said. 

Jackson said she learned about Ann Arbor Academic Games when her daughter participated at Clague years ago. Then when she volunteered to be a parent chaperone at the state tournament in Grand Rapids that year, she asked how she could create a team at Logan.

Huron senior Tony Varkey also received the Laemen Allen Outstanding Senior Award 

And the rest, she says, is history.

“She is a gift to the Academic Games program,” said Eric Nelson, the longtime coach of the Clague Middle School team and member of the MLAG executive board, when presenting Jackson with her award.

The Logan/Thurston team practices twice a week all year long, and students compete in monthly Saturday tournaments against other students in their region.  In March, all Michigan students come together and compete at the MLAG States Super Tournament.  Those teams who place first and second in the state can then compete at the Academic Games League of America (AGLOA) tournament in April. 

“As a third grade teacher, math and social studies are my absolute favorite subjects to teach,” says Jackson.  “And now I have discovered another fun way to have students participate in these subjects.  Kiddos on our team are excited to be at practice and to learn new math tricks to use against their opponents.  Although we are getting ready for a competition the whole time, we have lots of fun.

“Also, for me, this is an important way to pay it forward and give back to my community, creating opportunities for students to explore different extracurricular activities, just as it was given to me by so many. I also love having this extra connection with my third graders.”

David Lee says that to this day, some of his closest friends are from his middle school AG group. 

“In AG, I learned many different subjects through the various games we play from the set theory in the game of On-Sets, constructing logical proofs in Wff N Proof, to what my coach likes to call competitive grammar in LinguiSHTIKS to the details of our US history,” he says. “But most importantly, AG has taught me important life skills such as analyzing my own mistakes, adapting to unexpected situations, and forming creative solutions from limited resources. While AG is a competition, I’ve come to make many friends as well from students all over the state and the country.”

He says he always had fun with AG because it wasn’t about studying certain math formulas or solving word problems.

“Similar to chess, the strategical element of the games was what made me so engrossed with it,” he says. ” Predicting your opponent’s moves, thinking multiple steps ahead. I didn’t need to be the best speller or the smartest mathematician in the room to win a game. The gaming aspect integrated with the academic subjects is what motivated me to learn and enjoy learning as well.” 

Tony Varkey said the award was nice, but he is more impressed with the results.

“I’m so proud of my teams for not just participating but working hard to win three state championships,” he said. “It was also exciting for King as our fifth grade team beat Clague sixth graders, Northville, and others to win the championship in the grammar game Linguishtik for the first time ever.”

In many schools, third graders don’t really compete so much as they participate, Jackson said.

“But since I am a third grade teacher, I wanted to make sure that third graders had the opportunity to fully participate in my building,” said Jackson. “And these kids are rocking it!  Our states team this year consisted of seven third graders, four fourth graders, and four fifth graders.”

Jackson said students benefit in many ways, primarily because of the friendships that form.

“Students team up with other students 3-5 grade from their building,” she said.  “Students meet kids they may not have interacted with otherwise.  Because we also have students from Thurston who participate, students are building friendships across elementary schools.  Friendships that will merge as they attend Clague together in the future and hopefully continue AG.”

No matter their educational background or skills, students benefit from participating in academic games, she said. 

“For example, students who need extra supports with math get to practice fact fluency and find their strength as they play,” said Jackson.  “Students who are advanced in math get to practice skills they have not yet learned in the classroom, challenging them a bit more.  I have had students who participate grow 20 to 30 NWEA math points over a year.   Students are also more in tune with what is happening in their world whether it is national news, disasters, entertainment news, technological advances, and as they study for current events.”  

Last week a team of 12 Logan and three Thurston students competed in the Michigan League of Academic Games State Tournament.

“What an amazing tournament!” said the proud coach. “We are super proud of these kiddos who went to States for the first time ever and totally rocked it!  Each of our teams placed! Also kudos to our Clague and King teams who also placed in several events.  Many of them are headed to nationals in Florida next month. Way to go all Ann Arbor Academic Games Teams!”

The following are the Logan/Thurston Academic Games teams’ state competition results:

“Pi In The Sky” Team 

Geeoh Min, Shu Chen, Ryan Park, Navya Bedi, Sabrina Zheng

Minor Current Events – 3rd Place in the State 

“Easy As Pi” Team

Siyoon (Rosa) Paik, Riley Randall, Kalvin Karapici, Adelinh Cottrell, Leo Pierne

Minor Basic Equations – 3rd Place in Division

Minor OnSets – 2nd Place in Division

Minor Current Events – 2nd Place in the State 

“Piece of Pi” Team

Neilesh Bedi, Ishaan Wasnik, Ethan Chen, Seoyun Lee (Melissa), Alyssa Cubis

Elementary Current Events – Honorable Mention

Elementary Basic Equations – 2nd Place in Division

Elementary OnWords – 2nd Place State

Elementary OnSets – 3rd Place in the State,1st place Division

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