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Jim Dirig recognized for academic coaching

It is a competition, make no doubt about it. And it’s intense. And difficult.

It is the Academic Team competition, where high school students compete in six different categories: math, English, social studies, science, fine arts and an interdisciplinary category that combines the other five.

This year, Lakeland Academic Team Coach Jim Dirig was a finalist for Academic Team Coach of the Year, thanks to a great season his team had last year. “We had a phenomenal year,” Dirig said. “Our math team won the state competition.” The award named Dirig as one of the top three academic coaches in the state.

The Lakeland academic team has 20 to 30 members, who select which area they want to compete in based on their strengths, and can select more than one area, including the interdisciplinary field. “We have quite a few students who do multiple disciplines,” Dirig said.

The competitions are hosted by the Indiana Association of School Principals, with the team competing in three area competitions that start in November and end in May with the state competition at Purdue. One of the three regional contests is a state qualifier. Lakeland hosts one of the competitions, set for March 20, 2014, with up to 10 schools competing.

“So much work is on the students’ part,” Dirig noted. The students have a lot of researching and problem solving to do on the topics the competition will cover. “At the start of the season, there are a lot of questions. A lot of things in the competition they’ve never seen before,” he stated.

As the competitions get closer, Dirig works with the students to see who knows what, what their strengths are and their skill levels. “So much work is required outside of normal school,” Dirig pointed out. The problems and skills that make up the competition are more college level in all of the fields, he added.

At the competition, the challenge ramps up. “The biggest challenge is the speed of the rounds,” Dirig said. Students may have only 20 seconds to do a math problem. “That’s super hard. They have to know it and know it quickly,” Dirig said.

Dirig enjoys coaching the students and helping them meet the challenges the competition throws at them. “I was really blessed last year with the team. I had 30 hard working students who gave everything,” he said.