HIlltop Sweeps UIL Competition
When the word “Argyle” comes up in conversations about area schools, no doubt it’s couched with praise and accolades as being one of the most successful athletic presences in Denton County.
However, Argyle schools are also known as the ones to beat when it comes to academic competition.
Hilltop Elementary School has taken the top spot in its UIL district competition many times: 2005 – 2006, 2006 – 2007, 2007 – 2008, 2008 – 2009, 2009 – 2010, 2014- 2015 and most recently 2015-16.
“We feel like there are many ways for our parents to get their kids involved athletically, but there wasn’t a whole lot academically,” said Mandi Pels, the school’s principal.
There are 27 events in which students from 8 different school districts participate, making up UIL District 9. They are: Argyle, Aubrey, Celina, Gainesville, Krum and Sanger.
UIL competitions include music memory, art memory, math computation, dictionary skills, storytelling, chess and maps and graphs. Pels said UIL helps students feel confident. “It speaks to talents,” she said. “They get to show off what they know.
“At the same time, it’s a safe place to try something, fail it, and then try it again.”
Throughout the UIL district, about 1,000 students take part in the competition. They prepare for 6-8 weeks with their teachers serving as coaches. Hilltop hosts the event.
UIL at this level includes grades 2-5. After all students have competed in each event, designated “graders” review and score each entry.
Each category is assigned a point level. Students are graded individually and as a team. This past year, Hilltop won by more than 100 points.
Kimberly Mack, a Horizons/GT teacher at Hilltop, organizes the entire event. Now, with two years as UIL District 9 coordinator, she knows a thing or two about running a smooth event and what drives the children toward winning.
“Emotionally I think it gives them confidence and it kind of gives them practice for what they’re going to do in the future,” she said.
“It also establishes responsibility and it gives them an appreciation for what school does. It makes them well-rounded.”
Some of the favorite event categories among students at Hilltop include:
• Music Memory: Students must memorize over 10 (mostly classical) musical compositions, the name of the piece and the composer.
“It’s one of the hardest,” Mack said.
• Number Sense: Students learn and perform math strategies to allow them to complete computations in their head.
• Oral Reading & Storytelling: Younger kids practice using pictures around which to create a story, while older kids read an excerpt they have practiced presenting.
Another big draw for Hilltop kids is chess. They may compete in a chess game with another competitor, or a chess puzzle, a pencil and paper test analyzing possible chess moves.
Winners of individual contests win a medal or a ribbon. Teams earn trophies.
Pels said the students are eager to participate and often teachers will encourage students whom they feel may have a talent in a certain area.
And though there is competition involved, it’s always friendly. Despite the additional work, students meet with coaches once a week during the ramp up season. The teachers are motivated by how much good UIL does for the students and staff.
“Teachers see the value of the competition,” explains Pels. “I think that’s where a lot of relationships are built.”
“I think there’s something to be said about working hard,” Pels added. “I also think there’s something also to be said about the joy of being involved in children’s lives.”
First Place Results from Hilltop UIL Competition
1st Place Rylee Pazana (Creative Writing)
2nd Place Team (Chess)
1st Place (tie) – Drighten Miller (Chess)
2nd Place – Rachel West (Music Memory)
1st Place Team (Chess)
1st Place – Will Hodson (Chess)
1st Place – Edgard Paez (Number Sense)
1st PlaceTeam (Chess)
1st Place Team (Music Memory)
1st Place Team (Number Sense)
1st Place Team (Social Studies)
1st Place Team (Spelling)
1st Place – Ella Sheridan (Dictionary Skills)
1st Place – Levi Pabst (Music Memory)
1st Place – Evan Harbach (Number Sense)
1st Place – Kyndall Hennigan (Oral Reading)
1st Place – Ellie Richardson (Social Studies)
by Contributing Writer
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