South Shore students spell it out |

South Shore students spell it out

Hushed moments filled the gymnasium at Tahoe Valley Elementary School Friday during a spelling bee for South Shore elementary school students.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District elementary schools, Zephyr Cove Elementary and Tahoe Montessori schools participated in the event, which has been sponsored by the Kiwanis Club for 17 years. South Tahoe and Kingsbury middle schools also took part in the bee as practice, but were not competing for placement at the elementary level.

“It used to be the Lake Tahoe Unified School District spelling bee but we are opening it up more to the whole South Shore community,” said Tahoe Valley teacher Cindy Gronwold, who helped organize Friday’s event. “Really, my goal in planning this was to be as inclusive as possible, break down the barriers.”

The younger grades competed in a morning spelling bee, where a team of five Meyers Elementary School students took home first place trophies. Zephyr Cove Elementary School came in second place, Al Tahoe Elementary, third.

At the afternoon competition, Al Tahoe, Bijou Community School, Kingsbury Middle School, Meyers, Tahoe Montessori, Sierra House, South Tahoe Middle School, St. Theresa Catholic School and Tahoe Valley were each represented by five standout spellers.

“Even though today is a day of competition, it’s really a day of celebration,” Tahoe Valley Principal Jackie Nelson said at the opening of the afternoon bee. “You’re all here because you have a strength in spelling and you use it well.”

Teams sat in a line, one in front of the other, with a piece of paper and a pencil. Kiwanis member Dick Van Buskirk read a word aloud, defined it, used it in a sentence, then spoke it again. Students had a few seconds to write the word down. A proctor from another school checked each team’s work then reported how many students spelled the word correctly. That number was the team’s score for the word. There were four rounds of words, with five words per round.

Kingsbury Middle School fifth-grader Natalie Daly said she spent a lot of time studying a 200-word list provided to students a few months before the spelling bee.

“When I was practicing at home, I mostly gathered all the ones I got wrong and studied those,” Daly said during a three-minute break between rounds. “It’s fun. Some of the words are sort of easy today but most of them are pretty hard.”

Eleven-year-old Karli Vath, also a Kingsbury Middle School student, shared similar sentiments.

“Practicing is key,” she said. “I practiced at home every single night for like a month and a half but we got our practice list like two months after everybody else.”

After round 2, Sierra House, South Tahoe Middle School, St. Theresa and Tahoe Valley were tied for first place with perfect scores. At the completion of round 4, Tahoe Valley took first place and St. Theresa came in second. Meyers and Sierra House tied for third place and went on to compete in a tie-breaker round.

Five words were given: larrikin, sansculotte, cenogamy, pannier and imprecate. Meyers won the round 7-0, clenching the third place ranking.

Meyers student Erika Marty, 11, spelled all five tie-breaker words correctly.

“I just studied the dictionary when I was practicing and when he said them I just sort of sounded them out,” she said. “I didn’t know what any of the tie-breakers meant but I sounded them out and got them all right.”

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