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Trails West students achieve historic win at district-level Battle of the Books

Students at Trails West Elementary made history last week, winning top prize in the Cherry Creek School District’s annual Battle of the Books competition.

The Battle of the Books is a team-based book trivia contest, and Trails West students were dedicated to their mission as a team. Students read books from the list three times or more to become experts. Though the Trails West competitors were nervous on the day of competition, they focused on the task while continuing to support each other. Their hard work paid off when officials announced Trails West as the winner, marking the first time the school had won the honor in its history.

“I think our students were in shock at first,” fourth-grade teacher Elaine Ryan said. “The kids were so focused on just making it to the district level. We had prepared them for how to be gracious if they lost, and we realized we hadn’t even talked about winning!”

Ryan and her colleague, fifth-grade teacher Kimberly Gillespie, said that the students demonstrated incredible sportsmanship when they learned they’d won first prize. The teachers were proud of how mature the students were both in preparing for and completing the competition. 

“This competition tends to build a lot of camaraderie and encouragement,” Gillespie said. “We watched our kids support each other while pushing each other to be their best.”

To focus on creating a collaborative team where all students could thrive, the teachers talked about “grace and space” – being kind to one’s teammates and creating opportunities for everyone to shine. The students learned as much about teamwork as they learned about characters, plots and themes.

“I enjoyed the competition because even though it was a lot of pressure, it was really exciting and we had good teamwork on our team,” fifth-grader Lauren Mack said.

“I learned everyone needs to participate on a team,” fourth-grader Kamryn Ryan said. “I got better at being on a team and not getting mad if I get something wrong, and I learned that my team wouldn’t let me down or leave me out.”

“It was challenging to be the spokesperson because I was worried about forgetting something, but I learned that I am more capable than I thought,” fifth-grader Bryce Kirkpatrick said.

“The competition showed me that winning isn’t everything. Working together and teamwork is important too,” fourth-grader Dexter Griffin said. “It also showed me that one person isn’t enough to win; you have to have a team.”

The entire school came together to support the students. As a small school, Trails West’s sense of community extends deep and students, teachers and staff alike made sure to recognize the team’s efforts.

“The encouragement from our classmates and friends really carried us along,” fourth-grader Jacob Topkis said. “One of our friends even made us a poster for the competition so we knew they were supporting us.”