“A Contest of Academic Strength Through Teamwork”

Molly Ritchie, former WIAD State Director

GT coordinators are always searching for challenging curriculum, team building exercises and unique methods to engage not only the top scholars in school, but the gifted and perhaps “at risk” students as well — the ones who “have it” but are just not performing well in the confines of the straight rows in the traditional classroom. 

Academic Decathlon offers a program of study and a team experience that cultivates challenge at many levels.”

Michael Fesenmaier , New Berlin Eisenhower Principal – May 2012

This is an accomplishment that recognizes the expertise, passion, and dedication of the coaches, support of the parents, and the commitment, intellect, and collaboration of the team members and other members of the Academic Decathlon class.   This success is also a product of the efforts of the dedicated instructional staff at New Berlin Eisenhower for their continuing efforts to support learning in each of the areas of the decathlon along with their daily dedication to our entire student body.”

Mary Callen, Communications Director, WI Newspapers Assoc. –  Feb, 2014  “Last year, I volunteered to judge the interviews and it was wonderful.  I’ll be back again this year.  Talking with some of the state’s brightest students left me feeling very optimistic and proud.  (I was also feeling a bit like a slacker when I head about what these young people had already accomplished in life.)”



 Randy Ebert, Acadec Coach at Melrose-Mindoro High School
Coach Ebert was honored for 30 years of coaching at the March 2014 State Competition.

“Thirty years and thirty teams add up to quite a bit.   Decathlon has directly impacted over 350 of my present and former students including my own son.   I can honestly say that nothing I do as an educator gives me more personal satisfaction than Decathlon. Additionally, I believe that the rigor and routine I have developed in molding teams over the years has translated directly into my effectiveness as a classroom teacher.   My expectations and my belief that any student can be great are a direct result of Decathlon.   I often hear from past decathletes, and all of them say that what they learned and how they learned was their best preparation for college and beyond.

 We are a very small star in the constellation of great teams and coaches.   One of my past decathletes described Melrose-Mindoro as a public school with one hallway, out in the woods five miles from a town of 500.   But, all my students venture out into the greater world after graduation believing that they can succeed because Decathlon allowed them to measure themselves against the best in the state. 

 One student who came to see me Friday was a sophomore at Madison.   He told me that he had blown off his art appreciation assignment to study for a chemistry exam.   When he went to the art class the next day he was called on.   He was asked to explain Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastique.   Decathlon kicked in—and he went on for over ten minutes before the instructor gently stepped in saving the rest of the class from a description of the “idee fixe”.  Ya just never know when a bit of knowledge becomes critical.” 

Jake Winkler, Acadec Coach at Iowa-Grant H S

Personally, I believe that Academic Decathlon is one of the best ways to get students excited to learn.  Integrating competition into academics gets students fired up to study.  The curriculum is challenging and interesting.  It is rewarding as an educator to see students engaged in helping each other get smarter.”

Randy Ebert , Acadec Coach at Melrose-Mindoro H S

“I would say often times the lowest grade-point average students are academically the most talented.  What they don’t have is the drive or the interest in traditional coursework.  A lot of them are bored in school and Decathlon gives them a chance to start over at zero with a different group.  They’re in a small group of people who learn quick.”

Daniel Keeney, Acadec Coach at Southwestern Wisconsin H S

“Being from a small rural community in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, our students are not blessed with all of the opportunities of their big city counterparts. Academic Decathlon has given our students a chance to show that a quality education can be found throughout Wisconsin and especially in our corner of the state. The Wisconsin State organization has been a tremendous help in building our team and getting us ready for competitions. It has been a wonderful experience for our school and our students. “

Gordon Kendall, Green Bay Preble’s ACADEC team

 “This competition provides a unique opportunity for academically oriented kids to show their talent.  The Academic Decathlon challenges kids to expand their intellectual horizons.  Keep in mind; this is not for “geeks” — you must have exceptional interpersonal skills to excel at Academic Decathlon.  The speech and interview really bring out the best in the kids.  I have had multiple students over the years tell me that “this was the only time I was able to compete at what I was really good at.”


Coach Randy Ebert, Melrose-Mindoro High School

“I see a potential in each of their faces and promise that they can all be something wonderful and feel proud of their achievements in my classes and I have that feeling because, in great part, Decathlon teaches me to see that it is not just an event that touches the participants — it touches my perspective and the WIAD staff cultivates that and brings it out.”

Coach Diana Gullicksrud, Whitehall High School

“This (AD) gives so many students the opportunity to challenge themselves academically and compete in a venue that is not a field, court, mat, or rink!”

Former coach Duane Stein, Waukesha West High School

“The key to the school’s success is that the Decathlon’s competitive goal inspires the students to develop a work ethic that isn’t always present in traditional educational structures.”

Former coach Rob Campbell, former Sun Prairie H S, now at McFarland H S

“WIAD is important because it allows students to learn in-depth for the first time, and see how concepts in subjects such as art, music, and science relate.  We’ve had kids (in the Sun Prairie program) who would have almost never made it out of high school, let alone gone to college that have succeeded because of this program.”

“We’re getting kids from all over the high school, kids who have never even met each other before. Through WIAD they create a whole new network of friends.”  

Former McFarland Coach, Chris Curro 
(Some of his former “C” students have shown remarkable improvement in their school studies as a result of participating in this program. )

“The students now have a reason. They see how it works-they see how good achievement feels.  I had a student whose mother came to me after their child participated in the program”, Curro continued. “She told me she thought (WIAD) was the hook her student needed to get on track at school.”

Coach Wendi Tavs, Marshall High School

“I had one student in WIAD who wasn’t going to take any (additional) classes last year as a freshman, and now this year he is taking chemistry and is on track to attend a four-year college.” “I’ve been able to get some of those at-risk students-“C” students who should be “A” students-to achieve something in WIAD.   They are really proud of what they’ve been able to do.”


School Administration


William Baumgart, Waukesha West School Board President

“You have the feeling that this (Academic Decathlon) makes it OK to be smart, where in times past it was ‘eggheads’ and ‘dweebs.’ “


Doug Straus, former Waukesha West Principal

“The program provides role models among the students and staff, promotes a culture of learning and demonstrates what can be achieved when teachers and students collectively set high expectations for themselves.”





What has Academic Decathlon meant to you?

Rufus King Alumni

“The AD was very important to my development, and a treasured memory.”

Menomonee Falls Alumni

“More than anything, it taught me how to learn. It’s made a huge impact on my grades in school, helping me in all of my classes, and I have met some of the greatest people you could ask for. Academic Decathlon is the reason I will miss high school.

Wauwatosa West Alumni

“Ac Dec was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my high school years.   It provided a forum for me to achieve at the highest levels of my academic abilities outside of the school environment and helped me to develop the confidence needed to succeed at the university level.”

Waukesha West Alumni

“Academic decathlon has meant the world to me.  All the hours of studying, rehearsing speeches, and writing essays gave a real purpose to my senior year at Waukesha West.  Academic decathlon has been a wonderful experience in which I made new friendships and competed at the highest level.  Even now decathlon has inspired my career choice to go into the field of surgery as our science the year I participated was anatomy.  Academic decathlon has influenced me greatly and will continue to influence me throughout the rest of my life. “







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