California Educator

June/July 2020

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opportunities in the booming industry, and esports is likely coming to a high school near you. And it's not just a boys' club, with estimates that 35 to 45 percent of gamers are girls. Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) is what you could call an early adopter, with vibrant esports clubs at all four of its high schools. Yorba Linda High School computer science teacher Dan Eliot got involved in 2017 when he was approached by two of his female students who wanted to start an esports club on campus and convinced him to serve as adviser. During the club's second year, Orange County Department of Education started the Orange County High School E-Sports League to provide students with an opportunity for fun competition and learning about science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). "It started unofficially with assorted on-campus clubs across the district," says Eliot, general manager of the esports t eam an d m emb er of A ss o ci ation of Placentia-Linda Educators (APLE). "It became more official when our district administrators took notice and realized that esports are a very nice tie-in with career technical education, STEAM and computer science." Brent Willis, a 17-year AP economics and U.S. histor y teacher at Esperanza High School, got involved in 2017 when student Ben Tecker asked for his help in creating an esports club and a competi- tive team on campus. Tecker was already an accomplished gamer and wanted to connect with fellow students to compete in the Orange County E-Sports League he helped to create, now called the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). Willis became the club's adviser and the team's general manager (kind of like the equipment manager for an athletic team) — with responsibilities including holding regular team and club meetings, forming active rosters, handling all administrative items needed for students to be eligible for competition, holding practices outside of school hours, recruiting new members, promoting the club on campus and in the community, and providing a safe and inclusive environment where students can share experiences and enjoy compet- ing with each other online. "Esports have opened many doors on our campus and in our district. Students w ho normally w ouldn't f it in or w ho didn't feel like they had a place to go on campus to share their interests now have a group and an environment to call their own," says Willis, also an APLE member. "It's instilled pride and confidence in a segment of the student population that was shy and introverted. Districtwide, it's connected students from all of our high school s and allowed us to com- municate and develop new avenues for future collaboration." With its popularity, competitive gam- ing has become a lucrative endeavor, with top players earning six figures a year and sponsorships from video game giants like Blizzard Entertainment and Riot Games. And for Tecker, working to create a home for gamers in PYLUSD earned him more than an extra life: The Esperanza grad- uate won a $15,000 Dreamers & Doers Luminary Scholarship from Disneyland in recognition of his work to create the esports league, which now includes more than 280 schools worldwide. "Ben decided to donate $4,000 of his scholarship mon ey to th e Esp eranza esports program so we could buy new computers, monitors, gaming chairs, mice and keyboards, and other equip- ment for our esports lab," Willis says. "Because of Ben's generosity, our esports team has doubled in size in one year, and we now play in perhaps the most advance esports labs in NASEF." MORE THAN TROPHIES AND HIGH SCORES e esports teams from the four PYLUSD high schools compete ever y year in a massive NASEF-sponsored tournament held at UC Irvine's Esports Arena — the first facility of its kind on Teams from the four Placentia-Yorba Linda high schools compete for the championship at UC Irvine's Esports Arena. 45 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 0

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