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How Do You Spell...

Island Trees’ David Wendt competes for Scripps Regional Spelling Bee crown

In the age of “spell-check” and “auto-correct” the accurate spelling of words independently from smart phones and computers seems to no longer be of relevance. However the tradition of the spelling bee still reigns. 

Recently, students from schools across Nassau and Suffolk County competed for the winning title of the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee at Hofstra University. Participants from grades 4 through 8 competed in hopes of advancing to the National Bee in Washington D.C. later this spring. Anxiously sitting under stage lights and fidgeting in their seats, students waved to reassuring faces in the audience. 

For Island Trees middle schooler David Wendt, his accomplishment was making it all the way to the final top seven spellers. Wendt prepared for the Bee “every single night for a month.  It was a lot of work,” the 11-year-old said. 

Even still, he still felt the pressure. “In the beginning I was nervous but as I was advancing through the rounds I was getting more confident each time I got a word right,” he said. With support in the crowd like mom Lisa and best friend Sohrab, Wendt left feeling proud of himself. As for a celebration, they headed straight to Friendly’s for “the biggest, messiest ice cream sundae,” said mom Lisa.

“It’s a little like a Broadway show,” said Melissa Connolly, the Vice President of University Relations of Hofstra, who conducted the competition.  The Bee is a live event so there is plenty of room for mistakes. It’s that “nerve-wracking nature” that she likes as well as seeing the kids accomplish something they didn’t think they could. “It’s a hard thing to do,” Connolly said.

During the preliminary round students were asked to introduce themselves before spelling their word. The personalities of the different spellers were showcased. Some nervously approached the microphone, eyes on the ground, hair covering their faces and feet dragging on the floor, while others, like one young boy, confidently glided to the front of the stage proudly standing in front of the audience. “Good morning people!” he said brightly, breaking the intense nature of the competition and gaining a chuckle from the crowd. 

The way in which students spell and perform varies. Each participant has different methods of spelling the words, explained head judge and moderator, Dr. Carole Clark Papper. “Some are visualizers,” she said. “Some will tap the rhythm on their leg or write with their fingers on their hands.” 

The preliminary round started off with words like “balcony” and “manicure.” The pronouncer, and head of journalism at Hofstra University, Bob Papper, said that much of the competition is “just luck of the draw.” Sometimes an older student may have a seemingly easier word than the next speller but Papper says he follows the word list generated by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

A loud and swift ring of a bell was the indicator that the word was misspelled. Some students let out an audible sigh of relief or disappointment after completing the word. Chocolate chip cookies and apple juice were waiting backstage to comfort those who had just lost.

Towards the end of the day after an hour break the remaining few contestants went back on stage until there was a winner. Some were visibly tired, fidgeting in their seats and slouched over with their arms resting on their knees. Head judge and moderator of the event, Dr. Papper, says she could feel the tension of the students. “I get so stressed out for them,” explained the mother of four. “I like seeing them accomplish something,” she added. 

This year’s winner was Setauket 8th-grader Isabelle Scott. Scott beat 99 other competitors for the regional title. Scott will go on to compete on the national level in Washington D.C. this spring. 

News

A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.

 

All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.

 

Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.

 

Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.

 

In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.

 

“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”

 

With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.

Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.

 

The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.

 

The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “

 

At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.

 

Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.

 

Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.

 

The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.

 

Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county. 

 

The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year. 


Sports

Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.

 

In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs. 

Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.

 

Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games. 


Calendar

Lazy Days Of Summer - July 26

Flea Market - July 27

Darlene Prince and the Bragg Hollow Band - July 28


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com