by Boyd Baker
CANDLER PARK — It’s been a few years since Mary Lin Elementary had a spelling bee. Parent Gary Capelouto used to organize one within the school but it ended when Gary’s kids left the school.
Annis Barry in Candler Park felt that Spelling Bees are an American institution that needed to return. “Bees provide a link to the past. Spelling contests have been around since the time of the one-room schoolhouse,” says Barry.
Since the school administration didn’t want the Bee to interfere with the school day, Barry worked with volunteers to create a PTA event on Thursday, Jan. 17. Buzzy® for Pain Relief painless shot helper sponsored the event and MoJo’s Pizza in Oakhurst donated dinner for the 6 p.m. event.
With 23 students in both 4th and 5th grade signing up for the competition, the Mary Lin Auditorium hummed with about 150 parents and kids all hoping their friend or family member would win.
The first round was a practice round so the contestants could get over their jitters and practice spelling in front of the mic and crowd. They learned to ask word callers to repeat the words or ask for it used in a sentence to ensure they knew the word to be spelled. Then the fun began.
For 40 minutes the competitors performed gallantly spelling words both easy and challenging. At the beginning were words like “superstar” and “family,” they soon progressed to challenges like “intuitive” and “provincial.” Slowly, the field narrowed with each incorrectly spelled word being recognized with the sharp ring of a bell - DING! That sound would be followed by applause as the audience supported the efforts of each student as they left the stage.
This was one competition where kids hoped no one clapped for them.
And then there were two: Neil Barry and Theo Weimar. The air in the auditorium got thick with anticipation. Mrs. Barry announced to the crowd how the Georgia Association of Educator rules determine the bee to proceed. If Contestant A misspells their word, Contestant B must spell it correctly and then spell another word correctly. If they can’t, the competition continues. If they can, they are the winner.
When Neil Barry barely misspelled “empirical”, Theo had the chance to win. By spelling that word correctly as well as a second word, “fantastically,” he was declared the winner. In the end, the top three student spellers were Theo, Neil and Mylan Lowe, but all the contestants were great sports and future competitors.
Theo Weimar will represent Mary Lin Elementary on Feb. 7 at Gideon Elementary during the Atlanta Public Schools Bee. Wish him best of luck if you see him!
You do not realize the importance of a good sound system until you attend a Spelling Bee. Martin Steib volunteered his time and expertise to ensure the students could all be heard clearly, as could the judges (Mary Jo Bryan, Susan Shaw, and Mike Weiss) and word callers (Wendy Baker and Halle Griffee).
Many thanks go out to Annis, Peggy Edwards, Kelly Crutcher, the PTA, and all the volunteers and sponsors who made this night a really special one for all the families and kids.
Looking forward to next year already.
Mr. Boyd, of Lake Claire, is a parent at Mary Lin Elementary School, which, in addition to serving that community, also serves Candler Park and Inman Park.