'Reducing the pecking order': Shadle Park's first student-staff basketball game lets both teams let loose

<p><p>Traditions are a fundamental part of the high school experience. And after more than a year without school events, Shadle Park High School may have started a brand new one that doesn’t just bolster school spirit.</p></p><p><p>Monday night, Shadle held its inaugural “Students vs. Staff Basketball Game” to kick off the school’s “12 Days of Spirit,” which includes the usuals such as “Decades Day,” “Crazy Sock Day” and of course, “Pajama Day.”</p></p><p><p>For the students, it was finally a way to bring the student body together and have fun again.</p></p><p><p>“Stuff like this means a lot, because after spending, like, a year and half not seeing any students, to be able to come back and be a part of something super fun and really connect with the student body is something I enjoy a lot,” said senior Matthew Nitchman, who played alongside fellow students against the staff.</p></p><p><p>The students also believe events like this are vital for school spirit, especially Nitchman, who expressed this belief while decked out in all white, the senior class color, on “Wear Your Class Colors Day.”</p></p><p><p>“These sort of events bring people together in a less serious way and gives everybody an easy common ground between people,” said junior Kyleigh Archer, who is usually a mainstay on the Shadle girls basketball team but turned the tables to end up being a referee as her father, English teacher Robert Archer, played. “It also makes students more comfortable with the staff around them and help the staff appear more friendly.”</p></p><p><p>“This just brings us together and shows that not everything has to be so serious,” said junior Dylan Kakuda. “We can all have fun as students and staff that get along well, which is pretty important, because you can’t have a divided school when you kind of have to be together; so it’s better to stick together as one.”</p></p><p><p>And for the school staff, it was a chance to have fun with the students they know so well and break the usual confines of the classroom.</p></p><p><p>Kerista Knutsen, an algebra teacher, believes events like this are an important aspect of helping her students see her as somebody they can trust and not only come to for questions on quadratic equations, but life as well.</p></p><p><p>“Student-staff connection in the school, I think, is the most important part of my job,” Knutsen said. “It’s also a good stress reliever for students so it’s not ‘all school, school, homework, math, science, get this done, write this paper’; it’s something fun and enjoyable.”</p></p><p><p>To Scott Harmon, a U.S. History, World History and Leadership teacher, fostering relationships outside of academics is essential for creating general positivity, camaraderie and spirit within the school, something that can become lost as assemblies and large, schoolwide events have become rare since the coronavirus pandemic spread in March 2020.</p></p><p><p>“I think it reduces the pecking order, reduces the teacher-student adversarial roles that were built up, and instead it’s more collegial,” Harmon said. “And I think school spirit is really the willingness to get involved in your school. I always say, ‘get involved, get engaged, be involved with the entire process, not just the learning aspect of the classroom.’ ”</p></p><p><p>The event also celebrated the holiday spirit by raising money for Second Harvest Food Bank, alongside a schoolwide food drive.</p></p><p><p>The game raised about $350 after a $3 admission fee and the chance for students to raise the score, which was 20-20 at halftime, for $1 a point.</p></p><p><p>But the staff couldn’t just sit back and watch as they also gathered up $140 to bring the score to 160-160.</p></p><p><p>In the end, the staff would win 182-174, but the fun had and memories made are much more valuable than any victory. Still, the staff wouldn’t turn down the chance to gloat just a bit when future students view the photo of the faculty with their “gold medals” that now hold a personal value worth more than actual gold around their necks would.</p></p><p><p>“Just having a whole bunch of students together, screaming, having fun, being positive, cheering for each other and not actually competing was very fun; and also schooling some of my students on the court,” Matthew Wenman, Shadle’s Band and Orchestra Director, said with a chuckle.</p></p>