California Educator

June/July 2020

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prepare for the rigors of organized competition. When they enter the arena and collaborate to defeat the opposing team, they're competing just the same as any basketball or soccer team in the country. MAINTAINING A SPECIAL SPACE FOR STUDENTS Growing up in the "Atari Generation," Parker has been playing video games since he was a child. Being able to create a special place for stu- dents to learn and grow through gaming has been especially rewarding. "I enjoy seeing my students in a different light, watching them com- municate and work together for a common goal," he says. For Willis, the thrill of competition isn't limited to his students. Part of helping provide this space means getting a front-row seat to the energy, emotion and exciting competition of the game. "Being there with my players during matches and experiencing the palpable excitement of competing with and beating other teams is the best part of the job," he says. "Our esports program is one of the best in the area, so on match days the environment is thrilling. Our players cheer each other on during matches and boost each other up after defeats. Seeing how much they appreciate each other is the best part of it all." Eliot agrees, saying that in his classroom he only gets to see his students through an academic lens, while his work with them through esports allows him a glimpse of them experiencing the joys and sorrows of competition. He says there's so much more going on than some video games. "I hope that in their lives, esports encourages them to stay con- nected with school and education. I hope that it makes the kids feel validated for their love of gaming. I take pride in these students when I see them improving socially and academically, communicating well, happy and engaged. It's great to see kids come out of their shells and shine due to esports!" Computer science teacher Dan Eliot got involved when two of his female students asked him to be their esports club adviser. Want to Bring Esports to Your School? Advice for educators interested in learning more about esports: " Don't reinvent the wheel. There are great support systems available in CIF (California Interscholastic Federation), NASEF (North American Scholastic Esports Federation), and other leagues. NASEF even provides remote coaching (currently free) for many of their teams! Ready or not, esports is coming to every public school over the next few years. Embrace it, since it's good overall for kids!" — DAN ELIOT, Yorba Linda High School esports general manager " It's a great opportunity for our kids. You don't even have to know how to play the games — I wish I did, so that I could help them improve faster. But they usually figure that out on their own with experience, friends, and online. It takes time and decent computers, so if you have those, you'll have plenty of student interest." — JASON PARKER, Valencia High School esports general manager " Your students know what they're doing and are your greatest assets. Their excitement at forming a club will take control of the situation, and you'll see them flourish in the roles you give them. Ask [your administration] for what you need, and generally you can receive help. School districts want to provide more spaces like esports to their students." — BRENT WILLIS, Esperanza High School esports general manager 47 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 0

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