By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Success stories abound from Valdez City Schools

Excellence is the name of the game as student achievements mount


Photo courtesy Robert Huston

Eighth graders Warren Williams and Logan Heckathorn and their record breaking toothpick tower that held a whopping 1,169.25 pounds.

Students at Valdez City Schools are achieving at high levels.

While it would be nearly impossible to note every success story, a number of standouts have emerged in recent weeks outside of the sporting arena, which often fill up news pages throughout the year.


Valdez High School students took first place and are the medium-size school champions of Alaska in the Academic Decathlon.

"They won," teacher Adam Sharrai said. "We got a couple of kids that got individual medals."

Valdez aced out top contenders from Monroe Catholic and Hutchison for the top honor.

Sharrai said in an email "Robert Shidner, Scholastic division, placed 3rd in Economics, Social Science, and Language and Literature also taking a 2nd in Art who also produced our team high score with 6276.8 points for the second year in a row. He also received an iPad for his efforts. Bailey Watson, also Scholastic division, took an individual medal placing 3rd in Language and Literature. The medals awarded I should mention are between all participants regardless of division and represent an admired accomplishment among contestants."

Lego Robotics

For the fourth year in a row, the Valdez LEGO robotics teams earned trophies for their teamwork, engineering and programming skills teacher Cynthia Shidner said in an email last February.

The "Bananabots" from George Gilson Middle School earned a trophy for the highest score in robot performance, Shidner said. The "Super Brotatoes" from Hermon Hutchens Elementary earned the "Gracious Professionalism" trophy for their excellent teamwork and the second highest score in robot performance.

The "Red Hot Robot Masters," a 10-member team of 3rd and 4th grade students, will be hosting a LEGO contest and robotics presentation at the Civic Center this Friday, March 13 from 4-6 p.m. and Saturday, March 14 from 1-3:30 p.m. according to Shidner. She advised anyone and everyone to "bring your unique LEGO creation to the "Hall of Awesomeness" contest," hosted by the teams, which also includes a LEGO costume contest Saturday at 3 p.m.

Towering feat

In a bit of fun that is a real learning experience, Mr. Huston's eighth grade history class had a team of students, Warren Williams and Logan Heckathorn, break a school record.

Each year, Huston assigns students the task of building a tower out of toothpicks to later see how much weight the structures can hold as part of the class's study of the Industrial Revolution.

Williams and Heckathorn's tower supported an astounding 1, 169.25 pounds according to Huston. In fact, the class ran out of iron weights used to gauge how much a tower can hold before it collapses. The tower was kept intact and will be placed in the Gilson Middle School trophy case.

"We shattered the old record," Huston said, "I think it was 700 and something pounds."

The weight-holding capabilities of the toothpick tower was no accident he said.

Williams and Heckathorn did some serious research into the construction of the project.

Photo courtesy Valdez City Schools

Jacob Porritt, a seventh grader at Gilson Middle School, is a semi-finalist now eligible to compete in the 2015 National Geographic State Bee.


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