Students duel to spelling championship
CAMP CASEY, South Korea -- It's of course too early to know whether some future graduate of the Casey Elementary School will turn out to be the next Shakespeare.
But either way, the school's youngsters seem well on their way to a good grasp of at least one aspect of the English language: propper speling -- oops, sorry, that's proper spelling.
The school held its second annual spelling bee April 4 at Camp Casey's post theater.
A teacher in the role of "pronouncer" would say the word, use it in a sentence, repeat the word. Then the speller had to say it, spell it, say it.
"Aries, your word is typewriter. The author likes to type his stories on a typewriter, not a computer. Typewriter."
"Typewriter. T-y-p-e-w-r-i-t-e-r. Typewriter."
"That is correct."
"Brian, your word is consonant. The first consonant in the alphabet is the letter b. Consonant."
"Consonant. C-o-n-s-o-n-a-n-t. Consonant."
"That is correct."
A total of 42 students took part in the event, which was in three sessions. In the morning, grades four and five went first; then six, seven and eight; in the early afternoon came the second- and third-graders.
"The whole point of this is to just help them develop that language skill," Casey Elementary principal Shelly Kennedy said in a brief interview during the event.
The contestants sat in a row of folding chairs arranged across the stage. An audience of fellow students and some parents sat in blue theater seats fitted with circular plastic drink holders, empty on this windy Wednesday morning.
Below the stage at a table were the two judges, Monica Hoagland and Kim Sullins, and the event's pronouncer, Sarah Salem, all with Casey school.
Under the rules, spellers had up to two minutes to spell their word. They could first ask the pronouncer to repeat the word, or for its definition, or origin, or that it be used in a sentence again.
Get their word right and they're still in the running, miss it and they leave the stage when the round's done.
Eventually things got down to the last two spellers. If one gets a word wrong the other has to get it right, and then gets a final word to spell. If that one's right you're the champion.
The last two on stage during the middle school rounds were eighth-grader George Morris, 13, and seventh-grader Andrew Min, 12.
Morris' next word was graffiti.
"That is incorrect," the pronouncer said.
That left Min two spellings away from a win.
Min got graffiti right….one to go.
"Gossiping," the pronouncer said. "The two women were always gossiping about their boss.
Min clinched it.
Later, Morris said he'd missed "graffiti" because he'd been nervous.
"All my friends were there and my mom was watching me and just, I guess I was nervous that I was going to lose or anything like that," Morris said.
Min too felt himself get more nervous once things were down to him and Morris.
Because, he said, "Maybe George would win, maybe I would win."
Just to have made it to the spelling bee represented an accomplishment, school officials said.
In the week or so before the event, each class held practice spelling contests. The top three winners went on to the grand event, said fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Renaud, who coordinated this year's spelling bee.
Nearly 300 of the school's 406 students were involved in those classroom spelling runoffs, Renaud said.
"Students, congratulations to you for being here and for being in this position," Kennedy said to all contestants before one of the sessions got under way. "Good job. Proud to have you here."
Spelling Bee Finalists
Grades 2-3: Rieuel Ranollo, champion; Jojuan Moore, 1st runner up; Earljohn Gonzaga, 2nd runner up.
Grades 4-5: Brian Newill, champion; Aries Fredrick, 1st Runner-up; Kelechi Okike, 2nd Runner-up.
Grades 6-8: Andrew Min, champion; George Morris, 1st Runner-up; Mirae Heo, 2nd Runner-up.