Adventist Student 'R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-S' at Regional Spelling Bee

April 30, 2015 | Heidi Baumgartner

Buena Vista Adventist Elementary School fifth-grade student Joel Monterrosa had just four hours to prepare for the King-Snohomish Regional Spelling Bee on March 29. After the school’s first-place winner became ill, Monterrosa, as the second-place spelling bee winner, and his parents quickly made arrangements to be at Seattle Town Hall.

Monterrosa’s first word to spell was tofu. “We were tickled when he had the word ‘tofu’ because it is a perfect word for an Adventist student,” says Vicki Rutherford, Buena Vista seventh-grade teacher. “Vegetarianism has its advantages, even at a spelling bee.”

He went on to correctly spell credential, magpie and equilateral before misplacing a vowel in ionosphere.

For the regional bee, 72 students from public, private and home schools in King and Snohomish counties participated. The bee coordinator accommodates Jewish and Adventist participants by scheduling the regional bee on a Sunday instead of a Saturday.

“Buena Vista is the only Adventist school to participate in this regional spelling bee,” says Rutherford, adding that the school has a 15-year history with the 17-year regional spelling bee program. “We would like to see more Adventist schools participating.”

Following materials supplied by Scripps National Spelling Bee, Buena Vista holds classroom bees for grades five through eight and advances two classroom winners to a school bee. Students study through an extensive word list representing language, science, math and geography from a variety of language origins.

During the bee, the pronouncer gives a student a word. The student may ask the pronouncer to repeat the word, give a word definition, use the word in a sentence, share the language of origin, provide alternate pronunciations and identify the part of speech.

“It is not only used as a stall tactic but, for experienced spellers, actually gives hints about the word's spelling,” Rutherford explains.

Word learning techniques are often on display during the bee. “Students aren’t allow to write down the word on paper, but you will see students using invisible writing with their finger on the back of their card, tapping their leg or pretending to type,” Rutherford says. “It is quite interesting.”

The first two spelling bee rounds lasted for 90 minutes. By the fifth round, in which Monterrosa was eliminated, only 17 of the 72 students remained. The winner of the regional bee advances to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C.

“For a fifth-grader, he did exceptionally well,” says Rutherford. “We’re proud of how he represented our school.”

Watch the three-and-a-half-hour regional spelling bee via Seattle Channel.