Bartlett PTA

Second Annual Spelling Bee

I had the chance to sit down with fourth grade teacher Zoe Gatzogiannis, "Miss G" as many of us know her, to hear all about the fabulous Spelling Bee that our students participated in.  We have our grade level winners, and soon students will participate in a school wide Spelling Bee where one winner will be selected to head to the state capital to represent Bartlett at the statewide Spelling Bee!

Congrats to our grade level winners!
1st grade : Jackson Zabel
2nd grade:  TBD
3rd grade: Tiago Coimbra
4th grade: Finlan Thibodeau

Q: Tell me a little about yourself and how you got involved with the Spelling Bee at Bartlett.

A: I was a new teacher last year, so I went to a PTA meeting to see how I could get involved and learn how parents are involved. Myself and another teacher, Ms. Audley, were at the meeting and the Spelling Bee got brought up and it was never done before. Last year was the first one. We were asked to spearhead it, and it was cool to have first annual one last year.

As we talked about how the Spelling Bee impacts students and the school, Miss G shared that while today's curriculum doesn't always allow opportunities for students to support each other and cheer each other on, the Spelling Bee is a perfect way for students to practice those life skills.  I was curious about Scripps Spelling Bee and what their take was on why schools should do Spelling Bees, so I checked out their website.  I learned a few things.  Did you know The National Spelling Bee began in 1925?  That's almost 100 years of kids standing in front of their peers hoping not to get a word like onomatopoeia (this ended my Spelling Bee career back in grade school). Little did they know that 90 years later their literacy effort would reach 11 million students each year.

"I think its important for students to encourage each other.  I think the Spelling Bee helps people see that spelling can be celebrated and it’s a skill that can lead to something you wouldn’t expect." 
-Miss G

A few weeks back each classroom held their Spelling Bee. In 1st through 3rd grades, one winner was chosen to move on to the grade level Spelling Bee.  In 4th grade, two winners from each classroom were chosen.  Now each of the grade level winners are preparing for the school wide Spelling Bee to be held next Wednesday morning.  Packets are going home this week with practice words to help them prepare.  While it's unfortunate that the school does not have space for spectators, parents of the grade level winners are able to attend.  I'm hoping to capture some pictures and highlights of the event, so stay tuned for a future blog post.

Miss G's classroom and grade level winner, Finlan Thibodeau, is so excited to participate this year.  After having been a third grade  finalist last year and not winning the school-wide Spelling Bee, Finlan saw her defeat as motivation to study and prepare harder this year.  Finlan says she learned so much from the experience last year- that losing gracefully and working harder has helped her prepare for this year's Spelling Bee.  Can you even?!  What a great reminder to all of us.  Ah, the wisdom of a fourth grader.

While the Spelling Bee only takes place once a year, our teachers are always looking for ways to focus on building literacy skills with Bartlett students.  Most classrooms have adopted the reading buddy program where classes meet up once a week for 30 minutes and students take turns reading to each other.  Miss G shared that what's so special about this is that 4th graders are paired up with 1st graders, and they're the same students they share recess and lunch with.  Same goes for the 2nd and 3rd graders- most of their reading buddies are their fellow students that they see on the playground or in the Hedgehog Cafe.  This allows the students to extend their bonds and the extra time together helps build relationships they probably wouldn't make otherwise.

It's important to remember that we can't rely just on our teachers to help build literacy skills for our kids.  The best way to help our kids cognitive development is to read with them for 20 minutes a day.  Miss G suggested that students can read to their parents,  siblings, pets, even their stuffed animals.  This not only helps with literacy skills, but it allows students to take on a leadership role and take ownership over their reading.  I was shocked to see this graphic and the impact that 20 minutes a day really has by the end of the school year.  There is over a million and a half word difference between students who read for 20 minutes a day and those who only read for a minute a day!

So, while  I still cringe at getting onomatopoeia in my grade school Spelling Bee, I'm so grateful that we have teachers like Miss G who are recreating these experiences for our kids.   I think it's safe to say that it's more than just a Spelling Bee.  It's an opportunity for kids to gain confidence in front of their peers, learn public speaking skills, improve their spelling, and experience the thrill of a win and the feeling of defeat.  These life skills can't be taught from a curriculum, these skills are taught only through experiences created by the wonderful staff we have at Bartlett.  I'm so delighted that the Bartlett faculty goes out of their way and takes on extra work and projects to make Bartlett a very special place. If you want to get more involved or make a donation to our teachers or PTA, please reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or reach out to your child's teacher.  There are a million ways you can make a difference.

Bartlett.  Small, but mighty.

Written by Christine Spartichino

Christine is a high tech sales executive by day. PTA and hockey mom by night.

Special thanks to Zoe Gatzogiannis

Miss G joined Bartlett faculty in 2018 after graduating from St. A's. She is loving teaching fourth grade.
Her school blog can be found here.