Ep 19: How Is IDEA’s Academic Decathlon Team Encouraging Tomorrow’s Leaders?


Scott Gingrich
Lori Zulliger
Jen Schutte
Mandy Wraith


Scott Gingrich, Lori Zulliger, Jen Schutte and Mandy Wraith join the podcast as IDEA’s Academic Decathlon (ACADECA) Coaches. This statewide club has grown exponentially since 1998 and continues to find success in competitions, including this year! Listen and learn about the growth students experience studying 10 academic disciplines throughout the semester, what it takes to make the team, and also hear a students’ speech as she practiced for the state competition.

Guest Biography:

Mandy Wraith is a home-educating mom from the Wasilla area who has educated her three sons at home from preschool. In 2009, her family moved to Alaska and joined IDEA. She loves the strong relationship formed with their amazing contact teacher and the support IDEA has provided along the way. In 2017, she started IDEA’s first Academic Pentathlon program and coached that for several years while her two youngest sons participated. This year she joined the MatSu area’s Academic Decathlon program as the assistant coach, and she is excited to be coaching the MatSu AceDeca team next year! She and her husband have two sons who have graduated, a lovely daughter-in-law, and is finishing strong with her last student, her son who will be a senior next year! The Wraith family love everything about life in Alaska; hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, bush flying, gardening, berry picking. As a second-generation home educator who was educated at home K-12, she loves encouraging families along the thrilling adventure of person-tailored learning!

Jen Schutte joined IDEA in January of 2012 with her son, Alex.  They never regretted that decision and only wish they had taken the plunge sooner.  Alex graduated in May of 2019. She has two more students (Morgan and Quinn) moving up the ranks.  She looks forward to crossing the stage with them as well in 2025 and 2032. She believes in being an active participant in her family’s lives enabling them to follow their passions.  She has led clubs such as FLL Robotics and held the positions of Secretary and Chair for the Parent Advisory Committee.  Jen became the Field Representative for the Fairbanks office in July of 2019.  She advocates for all families in the IDEA program.  She maintains communication between families and administration; oversees PAC; welcomes new families to the program; and helps coordinate events, orientations, activities, curriculum fair and workshops.   

Lori Zulliger is a Contact Teacher for IDEA. She has served homeschooling families as their educational colleague since 2001, and has delighted in watching young children grow up to be confident and capable adults. Lori homeschooled her own daughter through IDEA, so she understands IDEA from the inside-out. Lori adores the homeschooling community and is excited about the choices that are afforded to the parent-teachers and their students. 

Scott Gingrich is a contact teacher who has worked for the District going on 31 years.  Married for 36 years with 5 wonderful kids.  He likes biking and kayaking when not at work.

Episode Sponsor:

IDEA’s Curriculum Fair

Resource Links:

Academic Decathlon: https://www.usad.org/

Learn more about IDEA’s Curriculum Fair: https://www.ideafamilies.org/fair