Bees create buzz at schools, improve spelling, vocabulary

Stuttgart schools crowned their spelling bee champions last month.  
Standing alone in front of a microphone, voice echoing over the audience, one child after another tackled vocabulary such as reimbursable, onslaught, polyglot and slantendicular. 

A correct answer brought a sigh of relief, or perhaps a quick fist pump. A mistake pulled a gasp from the audience or, at times, heralded tears from a disappointed contestant.

Spellers tackled third-grade level words at first, then proceeded quickly to the eighth-grade level and beyond. The Böblingen Elementary/Middle School bee was held Jan. 19. Thirteen students in grades three through eight competed in front of their classmates, teachers and parents for more than an hour.

After several championship rounds, the prize finally went to seventh-grader Suzanna Ortiz, who correctly spelled amethyst to take home the trophy. Fifth-grader Max Tortorelli was the runner-up.

Ortiz and Tortorelli were in a close race, fraying the nerves of the audience; it took nine rounds for Ortiz to pull ahead.

At Patch Elementary School, students in grades three to five gathered to cheer on twelve of their classmates Jan. 25. After 31 rounds and nearly two hours, fourth-grader Kaitlyn Gonyer emerged victorious, correctly spelling trembling.  
Trembling herself, Gonyer credited her father for helping her succeed.  
“He’d say the word and I’d spell it. We studied nearly every day for a couple of weeks, and the more I studied, the better I got,” Gonyer said.
Fourth-grader Rhoslyn Owens was named runner-up. 

On Jan. 31 at Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School, an enthusiastic crowd greeted the twelve representatives from grades three to eight.  
After a mere eight rounds, seventh-grader Sara Tingey correctly spelled “stringent” and had the award in her hands. 

This will be Tingey’s second trip to the European bee; she represented Patch Elementary School as a fifth-grader.

Sarah Hoeing, grade eight, will serve as runner-up.  
Tingey and her brother Damon, who placed third, practiced spelling words aloud together. “Anytime one of us missed a word, we’d re-spell it three times. We would do that out loud, because you can’t write the word down in the real thing,” Sarah said.

The contests help students “improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage,” according to the Scripps National Spelling Bee website.

The parent-teacher organization at each school coordinated the bees.
The process for each began with grade-level contests. Students studied at least 100 words, based on lists provided by E.W. Scripps, the media company that operates the national spelling bee. Winners from each grade moved onto the school-wide bees, studying at least 450 words.

The winners will compete in the European spelling bee in Ramstein on March 17.
The winner of the European competition will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 27 to June 2.