Charter school kids hold first spelling bee |

Charter school kids hold first spelling bee

Scott N. Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyPete Moore contemplates a word during the Eagle County Charter Academy spelling bee Wednesday in Edwards.

EDWARDS – Spell “municipality.” Now, spell the word, out loud, without looking at it, and with about 100 friends looking on. That makes it a little tougher.Spelling “municipality” under pressure earned a ticket to the state spelling bee for Kristofer Thornton, a sixth grader at the Eagle County Charter Academy. Thornton was the top speller out of nearly 50 charter school students who volunteered to participate in Wednesday’s spelling bee.The competition was run according to National Spelling Bee rules, and Gus Wallace, a retired school teacher, was the word master. Kids were given the word, and could ask for its definition, its use in a sentence, and its derivation. Those were the only lifelines.Some, like fourth grader Rebecca Cotton, studied. Sixth grader Jack Sunderland signed up late and didn’t study at all.”I think I’ll sign up a month early instead of a day early,” Sunderland said after bowing out in the first round.

After tripping over “tiresome” Sunderland mutter “dang!” within microphone range and sat down. No do-oversAnother thing about spelling bees is the finality. Miss a word, and that’s it for the day. So Andy Goodman’s “just kidding” had no effect after crossing up the “o” and the “i” in “steroid.”No matter how hard they studied – or not – the effort was obvious. Some tripped late in a word, missing an “i” or an “r” along the way. Others, like Hugo Parra, knew they were sunk from the time they started. Parra grimaced about halfway through spelling “ballot,” realizing too late he’d heard the word wrong.Stephanie Woodruff bowed out in the third round, but took on her spelling words with confidence, springing from her chair when it was her turn.

Then there were the serious spellers.”There are kids who just have a knack for it,” said Hilary Hughes, the language arts teacher for the schools seventh and eighth grade students. “I’m an English teacher and I don’t have it.” The kids with the knack would take their time. More often than not, the words came out right.”I just closed my eyes and visualized it in my head,” Conor Wallace said after correctly spelling “reconstituted.”Other students would close their eyes, too, wrapping their minds around words including “pretzel,” “hitherto,” and “impatiently.””I-d-e-a”

The notion for a spelling bee came from a parent, John Tedstrom, who suggested a spelling bee as a way to challenge students outside their usual classwork.The plan started in Hughes’ seventh and eighth grade classes, then trickled down to the fourth grade. Hughes said the fifth graders were especially enthusiastic after seeing “Spellbound,” a documentary about the national spelling bee in Washington D.C.But turnout for all the eligible classes was impressive. Nearly one third of the kids eligible for the contest signed up for what was an assignment with no extra credit attached.And there may be even more kids who sign up next year. Cotton and a group of sixth graders whose spelling day ended early all said they want to give the contest another shot next year. One sixth grader in particular wants a bigger turnout.”More people should do it,” Cody Hervert said. “That way there’d be less people in the crowd.”

Denver boundEagle County Charter Academy sixth grader Kristofer Thornton, eighth grader Corinne White and seventh grader Connor Tedstrom all qualified for the March 19 state spelling bee in Denver.

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or, Colorado

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