Nikolaevsk students test waters of DDF

At its regular Oct. 14 meeting, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District gave its blessing for a drama, debate and forensics team to be added to activities offered for Nikolaevsk’s 18 high school students. 

Eager to be part of the action, the school’s new four-member team — Elena Gordeev, a freshman; Nadejda Gordeev and Megan Hickman, sophomores; and Veronica Jones, a junior — were at their first meet, a tournament at West High School in Anchorage. Participating in Reader’s Theater, Nikolaevsk presented “Nose Rings and Oreos,” by Tony Devaney Morelli.

“They did great for their first time. I was really proud of them,” said Nikolaevsk teacher and DDF Coach Heather Pancratz. “They actually had to go first in the round before they got to see any other performances. I was really impressed with how they did for the first time.”

Pancratz got a glimpse of just how excited the students were when she mentioned to students the possibility of a DDF team and they immediately voiced their enthusiasm. 

“I told the kids last year that I was thinking about it and I didn’t have the sentence completely out of my mouth before they were jumping on it,” said Pancratz.

This year will be a learning experience for the Nikolaevsk team, with the goal to be a recognized Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association team for the 2014-2015 school year.

As with any school, Nikolaevsk’s 18 high school students are commonly involved in more than one activity. DDF team members are on student council and participate in sports, which means DDF practices have to be scheduled around other commitments. That challenge isn’t diminishing interest in the club, however, even among younger students who are eager to sign on once they reach high school.

“We’re trying to build the program, but this year will be more like a club,” said Pancratz. “Next year we’ll do more fundraising to make it into an activity.  … And I’ve got four eighth graders that can’t wait, so here we go.”

The Anchorage tournament offered the team an opportunity to see more experienced DDFers in action, including the 20 students representing Homer High School. It also piqued the team’s interest in different formats.

“They want to do student congress, where kids propose resolutions and then, as a group, they take turns arguing and defending their resolutions,” said Pancratz. “A few of the students get nervous speaking in front of crowds, but I think they’ll work through this. I also have quite a few kids who want to work on debating. We just have to work on building their skills in this area and researching evidence.”

Until now, peninsula schools with DDF teams have included Homer, Nikiski and Seward.

“If they have borough meets, it’s just those three teams, the same kids competing all the time,” said Pancratz.

Nikolaevsk’s new team adds new faces to peninsula competition.

On the calendar ahead for Nikolaevsk are two events: Nov. 8-9 at Bartlett High School and Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Service High School. Also being considered is participation in an upcoming meet in Seward, “and maybe state at East (High School) on Feb. 13-15 if we are ready,” said Pancratz. 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at