Students score big during Spelling Bee

Lorraine Cote sat nervously in the audience one recent afternoon at Branch Elementary School, as one of her sons, Tavis Cote, said each of the last few letters of a very long word.

“P-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-o-n,” Tavis said — and with that, took first place for the sixth grade at the school’s third annual Spelling Bee on Dec. 14.

His brother, Drake Cote, took first place for the fourth grade, correctly spelling “statue” for the win.

“I should have studied more,” was 11-year-old Tavis’ comment as he talked to his mother and classmates after the Bee, a huge grin on his face.

Twenty-seven fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders competed in front of their peers, Principal Stacey Russell and some parents.

The school’s Spelling Bee comes with a twist: while fourth-grade students were given a word to spell, fifth- and sixth-graders were only given a definition, and then had to produce and spell the correct word.

Macie Lachemann took the prize for the fifth-graders.

“The last word I just kind of guessed,” said 10-year-old Macie, who correctly spelled “desirable.” “I thought I wouldn’t win because I was going against my really good classmates.”

Lorraine Cote called keeping Tavis in books “a full-time job.”

Tavis said he was looking forward to using his prizes: a Barnes & Noble gift card and a dictionary.

He said he prepared for the Bee by studying a list of 100 words given to the class by fifth/sixth-grade teacher Rich Regan.

The word list was composed of terms taken from previous California exams and grouped into categories such as life science, geometry, statistics, literature and U.S. history.

“It’s fun because I can learn words and definitions,” Tavis said. “It’s a great way to learn what 100 words mean.”

More than 200 Grover Beach Elementary students have taken part in the school’s monthly Walk and Roll days, in which students are encouraged to ride a bike or walk to the campus.

Participating students are rewarded with monthly raffles of bike horns, bike lights, helmets, locks and water bottles.

Last week, even larger prizes were awarded. First-grade student Cambria Howard and fifth-grader Tanner Arias took home bikes donated in large part by San Luis Obispo-based Foothill Cyclery and Trinity Cyclery, located in Grover Beach.

“It looks really cool,” said Tanner, 10, as he checked out his new, blue BMX bike. “I’ll probably ride it after school.”

Tanner was one of the students who rode his bike to school on the designated Walk and Roll days with fifth-grade teacher Cathy Sanford, who volunteered to ride with students.

Money for the program came from a $340,000 grant the city of Grover Beach is also using for construction improvements, including sidewalks and crosswalks near Grover Beach Elementary and Grover Heights Elementary schools.

The two schools split $20,000 of the grant money, which administrators are using to promote safe walking and riding to school.

Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.