BRIELLE — Bed. Dot. Verb. Helmet. Knock. Backstroke.
From words like cab and dog to macaroni and periwinkle, students from all over the school district converged at Brielle Elementary School [BES] last Thursday to challenge their knowledge and compete for their school at the 36th annual Spelling Bee.
The rules were simple for the first ten rounds; students must pronounce the word before and after spelling, the words were chosen in advance, students were able to “retrace their steps” when spelling in case they needed to start over, and the students were told to stand in a tape square on the ground when spelling — a clever idea conjured up by BES. The square was an end-all be-all for students; they had to spell inside the square and the moment they left it, they were finished with their spelling.
The winner of the previous year’s spelling bee got to host the next year’s and it was Brielle Elementary School [BES] who set the backdrop this year.
The bee began with mostly three letter words in the first round, increasing in difficulty as the rounds went on.
The third round saw words like cable, pretty, office, and relax.
Round four became more challenging with words that had silent letters, such as knock, climb, and answer.
But by the sixth round, 21 of the 27 students from the nine participating schools remained on stage. The nine schools were St. Catharine, St. Rose, Avon, Belmar, Brielle, Manasquan, WC Mountz, Sea Girt, and Spring Lake Heights.
It was only after round seven — with words such as zucchini, pepperoni, and honeydew — that only 10 students remained.
Three students were left at the start of round 11, where the rules were altered slightly. If the first student spelling misspelt the word, the next student had to spell their word and the first students’ word correctly in order to win.
“The fourth grade students did a wonderful job,” said event coordinator, Jennifer Love. “Everyone put in a complete effort, they all had a great time, and we’re very proud of them.”
However, it only took one round after the rule change to declare a winner.
Thomas Schneider, 10, of Wall, of St. Catharine School in Spring Lake, was the third contestant in the lineup. When both students before him misspelt their words, Thomas spelt his word, elephant, and the previous word, baboon, correctly to become the winner of the 36th annual district spelling bee.
“I found this list online on the Scripts National Spelling Bee,” Thomas explained. “There were two really hard columns at the end so I kept studying them because I wanted to know them. And they never got to those words.”
Thomas said he was “really happy” about winning.
“When I won, it was crazy,” he said. “I was hyperventilating and my eyes opened really wide. It was crazy.”
Thomas’ sister, Maggie, was also a winner in the district spelling bee when she was in fourth grade.
Ken Yee was the announcer for the event and father a previous bee winner, Alexander Yee, said, “I thought the kids did an excellent job. There were many tough words. Some of the kids had a very good strategy where they were deliberate in how they spelled the words and I think that helped the winner in particular. I could almost see [Thomas] counting out the letters on his hands. He deserved it.”
According to Superintendent and Principal of BES, Christine Carlson, last year Brielle took first, second, and fifth place last year.
“So those winners from last year came out and gave their classmates some encouraging words,” she said.
“I think the children who are participating learn courage,” said Ms. Carlson. “It’s competition, courage, compassion because you don’t make fun of kids who get out. I think they gain a lot by speaking in front of an audience. That’s very difficult to do.”