RIVERDALE - On February second Riverdale hosted its annual Spelling Bee in the RES Commons.
22 spellers from grades fourth through eighth took to the stage to compete for the top honors in spelling at the school. The winner for this year’s Bee was sixth grader Movonna Zarbock.
It may surprise some to learn that the concept of a spelling bee is thought to have originated in the United States. According to Wikipedia “Spelling bees are common only in countries where English is spoken because other languages have a more predictable spelling system.” The article on Wikipedia also explains “The earliest known evidence of the phrase spelling bee in print dates back to 1850, although an earlier name, spelling match, has been traced back to 1808. Spelling bees became widespread across the United States during the 1800s as a way to motivate students to learn standardized spelling. These spelling bees were usually held within individual schools and towns. In 1908 the first national spelling bee was held in Cleveland, and Marie Bolden was named the champion. The annual United States National Spelling Bee was started in 1925 by the Courier-Journal, the local newspaper of Louisville, Kentucky and the winner was Frank Neuhauser, who won the bee that was held on Washing D.C. at the age of eleven.” By 1941 as the article explains, the competition was expanded to include spellers not only from all 50 states but also from Canada, the Bahamas, New Zealand and European countries as well. Nowadays, the national level competition is even broadcasted on ESPN.
It is also noted that spelling bees aren’t just for kids anymore. The National Senior Spelling Bee started in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1996 and was sponsored by the Wyoming AARP and is open to contestants 50 and older.
Locally at Riverdale School District to qualify for the school spelling bee, contestants needed to place first or second in their classroom bees.
The contestants this year included Feona Zarbock, Landyn Waddell, Manning Sweet, Wyatt Bray, Millie Schneider, Olivia Blank, Bevyn Dennis, Lakota Brewer, Grace Wanek, Parker Bremmer, Krystel Kessenich, Jordan Rux, Lanie Williams, Lydia Updike, Zack Mueller, Lainey Miess, Rose Martinez, Chayton Havlik, Jordan Kientiz, Alex Schneider, Khloe Franklin and Riverdale’s Champion Speller Movonna Zarbock.
Khloe Franklin, eighth grade, took second and Jordan Rux, fifth grade took third.
Movonna has been competing in the school spelling bee for the last two years and attributes hard work and lots of studying to her success.
“I study the printed script of words a lot,” Movonna shared. “I take a lot of time to memorize them.”
Movonna also shared that in addition to studying the words list, reading recreationally is also in her arsenal of secret weapons for the win.
The sixth grader captured her win on the word sinister. Which she felt confident about right away as she spelled it.
“It was pretty easy,” Movonnna said happily. “It went fast, I remember thinking ‘Wow! It’s already done! But I am feeling very happy and proud about the win.”
One tip Movonna shared for other spelling bee participants was to stay calm.
“People usually get very nervous and their head gets a head of their mouths and they end up saying letters they don’t mean to say,” Movonna explained. “I’d encourage people to try and stay calm.”
Another key element that Movonna attributes to her success was help from her former fourth grade teacher, Stacy Ottman.
“She was the one who first took Movonna to the spelling bee three years ago when she first went to Platteville,” Yvonne, Movonna’s mother explained. “She is subbing this year and she has been helping Movonna study and prepare for the bee. She has been following Movonna and plans to watch her next Bee on Zoom.”
Ottman has been “amazed” with Movonna’s progress.
“I was Movonna’s fourth grade teacher the year she won her first spelling bee,” Ottman recalled. “Her ability to remember words and word patterns is remarkable. She loves to challenge herself to spell harder and harder words. Being an avid reader has helped Movonna with her ability to spell so well. We have lists of words that we study and I usually need to have my computer handy because we always come to words that are unfamiliar to me. It always amazes me when Movonna is able to spell them correctly. As long as I’ve known Movonna, when she sets her mind to accomplishing something she usually does. There has yet to be a challenge that I have seen her shy away from. I can see Movonna continue to move through the next stages of the spelling bee. It wouldn’t surprise me to see her at the bee in Washington D.C. someday soon.”
Movonna will be advancing to compete in the 34th Annual Telegraph-Herald Regional Spelling Bee on March 6.
“I’m excited but also a little nervous,” Movonna noted.When not brushing up on her spelling Movonna enjoys reading, painting, playing flute, and playing Minecraft. She also participates in dance classes in Richland Center at RC Dance Studio.