Local students sweep Russian Olympiada competition

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Since 1991, Gregory Visenberg has been teaching his native Russian tongue to students at Soldotna High School.

Recently, Visenberg added students from Skyview to his Russian classes, "Last year at Skyview, the interest doubled in the Russian classes and I would say there is more interest in young people learning the language than ever," said Visenberg, who is very proud of his student's accomplishments and community support for the program.

Visenberg's students have been competing in the statewide Russian language competition known as the Olympiada since 1991 and doing very well against some very stiff competition. "The students I use to take to the Olympiada were the 3 or 4 elite from my classes, the cream of the crop so to speak, because it takes a lot of preparation to go there, but 3 years ago, my community volunteers decided to help prepare the kids for the competition," said Visenberg.


Gregory Visenberg with members of the Skyview Russian language team that competed in Anchorage.

Those volunteers were made up of native speaking Russian community members Martha Mary, Natasha Visenberg, Svetlana Johnson, and Natasha Johnson, who every Friday, would converge on SoHi and Skyview to drill the students in their native tongue. As a result of this volunteer effort, Visenberg not only took 3 or 4 of this top students to compete at the Olympiada in Anchorage, but a whole bus load of his students that swept the medals at the competition.

Rachel Beatty of Skyview is a repeat gold medallist at the Olympiada, winning last year at level one and this year taking level two gold, "We study for months and months before hand. We learn to say many things about ourselves, our families and Alaska. We learn Russian history and have to say it all in Russian at the competition," said Beatty. "The competition helps us learn so much and it really helps having other kids that are interested as well and want to do it, I think it's as much fun as sports," added silver medallist Kelsey Shields. The students are all looking forward to competing again next year and furthering their Russian studies, but like many programs, budget cuts are casting a cloud of uncertainty over these award winning students.

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