Spelling bees & memories

Bensalem Township School District shows off student talent in multiple end-of-year events

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Sweet victory: Faust fifth-grader Josiah Garcia and Belmont sixth-grader Victoria Mocarski were the two finalists in Bensalem’s 9th annual district-wide Spelling Bee. After spelling two words correctly, Garcia was the winner, earning a plaque to be displayed at Faust during the 2018–19 school year. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

It was “freedom at last” for the students of the Bensalem Township School District last Thursday, the final day of the 2017–18 academic year. Though family vacations, camps and video games were surely on most young minds during the weeks prior, a few favorite end-of-year traditions needed to take place before summer break could officially commence.

First was the 9th annual district-wide Spelling Bee, which took place on the evening of Tuesday, May 22, at Valley Elementary School, 3100 Donallen Drive. Sponsored by Just for the Kids Education Foundation and coordinated by third-grade teacher Meghan Green and music instructor Courtney Capriotti, the competition tested the spelling knowledge of more than 30 fifth-and sixth-graders. To prepare, the students were given a lengthy list of words (which quite a few loved ones in the audience could be found anxiously clutching) ranging from easy to challenging.

Capriotti kicked things off with a practice round to ease participants’ nerves and help them understand the bee rules. Students were allotted one minute to spell their assigned word. In that time, they could ask for a definition and for Capriotti to use it in a sentence. They could also ask to restart a word after beginning, a “save” they could only take advantage of once a round. Though not a rule, Capriotti stressed an important note of advice — for the contestants to take their time.

“A minute is longer than you think,” Capriotti said.

The students powered through the practice round without a hitch, all effortlessly rattling off the letters of their assigned words in perfect order. Finally, it was time for the highly anticipated first round, which began with easy words such as “rain.” But the students knew the entire competition wouldn’t be such a breeze. Slowly but surely, the words became increasingly harder, with “quadrant” eliminating the first contestant of the evening. By the end of the round, “truly,” “surprise” and “demonstration” took out three additional bee-goers.

The next five rounds followed a similar pattern, with the students attempting to spell words that left most audience members scratching their heads. Though it was clear each contestant came into the bee well-prepared, the intricacies of the English language proved to be too tricky for some. Words such as “effervescent,” “guillotine” and “infallible” forced a number of young spellers to abandon their seats on stage.

By the end of the sixth round, four contestants were left — Josiah Garcia, a fifth-grader at Faust Elementary; Julie Mathews, a sixth-grader at Struble Elementary; Seriah Sabir, a sixth-grader at Rush Elementary; and Victoria Mocarski, a sixth-grader at Belmont Elementary. As the final competitors, the words they received no longer came from the spelling list, but rather the dictionary. At this point, it was anyone’s bee to win.

All too quickly, “indigenous” took out Mathews while Sabir stumbled on “belligerent.” It was down to Garcia and Mocarski. According to Capriotti, if one of the contestants messed up a word, the other would need to spell two correctly to win. The pressure was on for Mocarski, who had the chance of winning after Garcia tripped up on “recalcitrant.” Unfortunately, her spelling of “fastidious” was wrong, and a new round took place.

After Mocarski incorrectly spelled “egregious,” it was up to Garcia to correctly spell two words, which included “aggregate.” This time, he did just that. As the winner of the bee, Garcia received a plaque, which Faust will proudly display throughout the 2018–19 school year.

Several weeks later, proud parents, siblings and loved ones packed into the auditorium at Russell C. Struble Elementary, 4300 Bensalem Blvd., for “Struble Kindergarten Family Night.” The event, which took place Tuesday, June 5, at 6:30 p.m., celebrated a special theme — “In a world where you can be anything, be kind” — a concept that was instilled upon the students throughout the past school year.

SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

The 2017–18 kindergarten class was divided into three groups rightfully called the Creators, Heroes and Leaders, all of whom were featured in a 30-minute slideshow video to kick off the evening. Tissues at the ready, families enjoyed a touching reflection of their child’s exciting Struble adventures.

Set to popular songs including “We’re Gonna Be Friends” by Jack Johnson and “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang, photos chronicled the smiling kindergarteners dressed up for Halloween, picking pumpkins at Shady Brook Farm, having fun with Snapchat filters and making new insect friends.

The festivities concluded with the Creators, Heroes and Leaders taking the stage to perform songs that truly encapsulate what kindergarten at Struble is all about, including “Count On Me” by Bruno Mars and for the grand finale, “ABC You Later.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com