Monday, April 22, 2013

National Spelling Bee 2013: The Official Write Up

This article will hopefully appear on the Peace Corps website shortly (keeping my fingers crossed it actually does)
Saturday, April 13, 2013, marked the 4th annual National Spelling Bee (NSB) in Macedonia. The event was organized by Peace Corps Volunteers and held at the University American College - Skopje. Approximately 1400 students in grade five through year four of high school qualified for the event out of over 6000 students who participated in nearly 100 Local Qualifying Bees held by PCVs, local teachers, and American Corners around the country. This year set a record for number of participants, making NSB the largest PCV-run event in Macedonia.

Students from approximately 130 schools were required to spell 12 words correctly without any mistakes in order to qualify for the National Bee. Words across the age levels included "basketball", "scissors", "quarrel", and "smithereens".
Local teachers praised the event for not only making spelling fun, but also as a great way to teach students new words through the translations from English to Macedonian, Albanian, and Turkish.

The goals of NSB are to: expand student vocabulary and encourage accurate word usage and pronunciation, increase the students' phonemic awareness, practice common spelling patterns, and increase students' confidence in their ability to use the English language. The National Spelling Bee aims to give students a forum in which academic excellence can be recognized and encouraged in an atmosphere of friendly competition between all ethnicities living within the Republic of Macedonia.

Peace Corps Volunteers worked closely with counterparts, students, and local volunteers to hold qualifying events, arrange transportation to and from the National Bee, and help participants master the challenging word lists.
A last minute cram session before the competition begins
National Spelling Bee Committee Chair, Sara Scholin described the event as "the highlight of my service both personally and for my students who are already asking if the National Spelling Bee will happen next year when I am gone." Both Peace Corps Country Director Stephen Kutzy and US Ambassador to Macedonia Paul Wohlers spoke at the event, highlighting its importance for English education in the country.
Peace Corps Country Director, Stephen Kutzy, and US Ambassador Wohlers presenting the 1st place winner in the Year 3/4 Bee with her prize.
The project benefits from the strong dedication of local teachers, Peace Corps staff members, the Macedonian Ministry of Education, and other community stakeholders, increasing its long-term sustainability. Schools and municipalities throughout the country provided funding to support student transportation, University American College - Skopje donated space for the event, and the Tinex supermarket chain provided free snacks and drinks for participants, making it possible to implement the entire project for only $300, generously provided by former Peace Corps Macedonia Volunteers through a Friends of Macedonia grant.

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