Last Friday, 73 excited and nervous students started in Northland Preparatory Academy's sixth annual spelling bee. After two hours and spelling "turbulence" correctly, seventh-grader Alex Hayden placed first. First he had a seven-round final back-and-forth duel with second-place finisher Andrea Lopez, who is also in seventh grade.
Alex will compete against representatives from public, charter and home schools in the Feb. 23 Coconino County Spelling Bee. Andrea will be the alternate. Last year NPA came in third place in the spelling bee.
Danner started the bee by congratulating the participants. Participants came from sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Danner is the guidance counselor and program coordinator for NPA. Each of the spelling bee participants had arrived at Friday's bee by winning mini-bees within their grades.
"Sometimes people don't give enough importance to spelling," Danner said to the students. "Accuracy is important, whether in English class or someday on a resume. Congratulations on caring."
During the early rounds of NPA's spelling bee, participants became familiar with the ins and outs of a spelling bee. Nerves got the best of some spellers as they misspelled easy words. One student carefully pondered the homonym, "hare" -- first asking for a repeat of the definition, then the use of the word in a sentence of the word "hare" before he correctly spelled it.
The students were given a list of words so they could prepare for the bee. Seventh-grader Devin O'Brien practiced by highlighting the words she needed more practice on and having her parents quiz her. She was nervous about the bee.
"I twiddle my thumbs," she said, laughing.
One strategy she uses is to write words on her hands as she spells words out loud. Ari Schwartz, eighth-grader, was also nervous but appeared more calm.
"I am here for the fun, not to win," he said. He expected to be tripped up by words such as "bouillon."
"Spelling is one of our standards," Lisa Martinez said. "And we have that goal across our curriculum, including science and history."
Martinez is a writing teacher at NPA and is coordinating the spelling bee. She agrees students have become dependent on other sources to help them with their spelling, such as a computer's spell checker or text autocorrect. She explains the spelling bee gives them a goal to work toward.
"They are extremely excited and enthusiastic," Martinez said. "This is an incredible group of kids."
Cecile LeBlanc can be reached at 556-2261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.