Spelling Bee finals set for next Saturday

Feb. 08, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This week, we Take 5 with Brad Marin about the 4th annual Lee County PAGE District Finals Spelling Bee, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Feb. 15 at McLeod Auditorium at Lee Senior High School. Marin and his wife, Lauren McCormack, are the co-founders of Lee County PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education), one of the Bee’s primary sponsors. Marin, a native of Arizona, was raised in the suburbs of Detroit and recently retired after 24 years of military service. He and McCormack have two sons.

How did PAGE, the Bee’s sponsoring organization, get started?

Lee County PAGE formed in 2010 as a local group of parents and educators who were concerned about changes to the AIG program in Lee County. PAGE is an acronym for Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education and has several chapters throughout the state. The group provides a way for parents, teachers and community members to become better informed about issues concerning gifted education in the schools and participate in decisions involving identification of gifted students, the training of teachers and the delivery of educational services to this population.

During our first year as a chapter, I learned that the Wake County PAGE organization had just become the lead sponsor of the Scripps Spelling Bee for Wake County. I thought that this was a great academic enrichment program that we could also bring to the students of Lee County. With the support of then-Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss and Bill Horner III, the publisher of The Sanford Herald, the Lee County District Spelling Bee was born. PAGE raises the funds each year to send the winner and his or her family member for an all-expense paid trip to the Scripps National Bee for a six-day experience.  We want to acknowledge the generous donations of our co-sponsors including Lee County Schools, The Herald, Lee-Moore Capital and several local businesses.

Why is the Bee important for students and the community?

The Spelling Bee provides an opportunity for students to improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies and learn concepts that will help them all their lives. It also can help them learn how to develop poise, think under pressure, and practice public speaking. In addition, it gives them a chance to showcase their abilities and hard work in front of their peers in an academic setting. By participating in the spelling bee, kids learn that showing their brain power can be fun and rewarding.

How do schools pick winners and move them on to the county competition?

Each elementary and middle school in the county holds spelling bees at the classroom level for students in the 3rd through the 8th grade and then holds a school-wide bee to identify its top three spellers. These spellers then compete at the Lee County District Spelling Bee to see who will get the chance to go to Washington, D.C., to compete at the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

What can folks who go to the Bee next Saturday expect to see?

People who attend the spelling bee will see some of Lee County’s best students on stage as they spell some words that are unfamiliar to many adults. Each speller will hear the word pronounced and then used in a sentence and pronounced again. The speller can request a definition, request to hear the word again, have it used in a sentence, request to know which part of speech, language(s) of origin and any alternate pronunciation(s). There can be suspense, humor, euphoria and disappointment all in a very short space of time.

And for the winner – what’s the D.C. experience like?

For the winner the trip to Washington is like attending an academic all-star game. The competitors are definitely an impressive bunch of kids. They come from all over the country and, more recently, from several other countries around the world. Many have competed at the nationals before and most have had several years of competitive experience.

There are fun events, including a Memorial Day Barbecue and a tour of historical sites around the capital. There are also pressure filled moments taking the written spelling test and appearing on stage in a huge ballroom before bright lights and television cameras. Many spellers form close friendships that can last well beyond the competition itself. I think it is not overstating the case to say that the experience can be life altering.

We invite you to come to the Bee. Three-time winner Hunter Randolph, the son of Jimmy and Julie Randolph, has aged out of the competition, so we’ll be crowning a new winner this year.

(To find out more about PAGE, please contact Marin at (919) 215-1151 or at marinsb@charter.net.)