Sierra House, Meyers schools persevere in spelling bee |

Sierra House, Meyers schools persevere in spelling bee

by Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

There was so much tension in the cafeteria at Tahoe Valley Elementary School you could cut it with a consonant.

But when it was over, the two winning teams at the 19th annual Kiwanis Club Spelling Bee — Meyers Elementary and Sierra House — persevered as winners without even having to spell the word “persevered.”

Eight South Shore elementary schools competed in teams of six for the top honors. It is a precursor to the May 16 El Dorado County Spelling Bee in Pollock Pines.

Unlike other spelling bees where students compete individually, schools compete against each other with six students to a team. The divisions were third and fourth grade, which competed in the morning and fifth- and sixth-graders who competed in the afternoon.

In the third- and fourth-grade competition, it came down to three schools — Meyers, Al Tahoe and Bijou for the tie-breaking round.

While the morning competition brought such words as “drowsy,” “hiccups” and “banana” to the floor, it was the tie-breaking round that elicited some of the most creative phonetic efforts.

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Words for the tie-breaker round were compiled by two South Tahoe Middle School teachers and were not given to the students to study, as were the rest of the words provided in the first three rounds.

Third-grader Rylan Tepper of the winning Meyers team said he was stumped when he tried to spell “licorice” which came out on paper as “liquorish.”

Thinking visually, the boy said he came up with the word after remembering that he passes a liquor store sign on his way home from school.

“I thought of that and wrote it down,” Tepper said, acknowledging that he had better luck phonetically spelling “hemisphere.”

Team member Ariana Truszewski, a Meyers third-grader, said she relied on the “rules of spelling” to come up with the right spelling for licorice.

“I think I read it in a book before and then I remembered it and then I spelled it out,” the 9-year-old said.

Teammate Mikaela Buckley’s secret to hitting the right words is to see the word in her mind and and then spell it out phonetically.

“I just concentrate hard and see it in my mind and then I will say it slowly,” Buckley said.

In the end, the Meyers team broke through by spelling correctly the words “vacuum,” “hemisphere,” “superseded,” “particular” and “licorice.” Other team members include Matthew Warden, Shelby Reed and Lindsey Weik.

Taking second place in the third- and fourth-place division was Al Tahoe, narrowly defeating Bijou Community School by having the most team members spell “appreciate” and “civilization” correctly.

Meyers spelling bee coach Irene Kaelin said she began working with the team in February, practicing four days a week during lunch and then asking students to practice a minimum of 15 minutes a day after school.

Last year the third- and fourth-grade team took third place.

“They really worked hard on this,” said Kaelin, who has coached spelling bees at Meyers for 10 years. “This is something our whole school can be proud of.”

In the fifth- and sixth-grade division, the Sierra House team took top honors without a tie-breaker, while Meyers Elementary took second place. The fighting finish for third place took place between Tahoe Valley and Zephyr Cove elementary schools, with Tahoe Valley taking third place.

Among the words spelled correctly in the upper grade level division were “miscellaneous,” “business,” “technique,” “satisfactory” and “mischievous.”

The winning Sierra House team members are: Josh Licudo, Vanessa Dasalla, William Caglia, Julia Glenn, Brittany Rumble and Annie Hubberts.