Competitions in spelling and Shakespeare produce winners

Isabella Johnson, an  Academy eighth grader, recently placed in the Honolulu District Spelling Bee.

“I came in second place and I was kind of anxious,” said Johnson, reflecting on her feelings during the Bee. “But, I was just trying to stay calm because I knew if you got first or second place, it means you get to go to the States. So, I was fine with getting second place.”

“It’s super exciting, and it’s a little bit scary because first she won the school competition and now this one. And the state one?” said English teacher Samantha Silverberg when asked about her student’s progress.

“The higher up that we go, the words get harder and harder and the other students are way more intense about it. They study way harder and if you look at the winning words for the spelling bees, I’ve absolutely never heard of them.”

Some spelling bees have been known to present words 27 letters long.

Johnson is the first Academy student to reach the state competition, the Hawaii State Spelling Bee.

“I didn’t know it. I found out today, which is really exciting. Maybe I should’ve made a bigger deal out of it, like screamed it the day after when I got to school. I had no idea–I don’t even know if she knows,” said Silverberg.

“I was surprised when I heard because I thought somebody would have won before me,” said Johnson.

In preparation for the next stage, which will take place on Apr. 1, Silverberg plans to go over the words with Johnson. The pair meets three times a week, if not more.

“I’m also studying with my mom,” said Johnson.

Having to juggle homework, projects and extracurricular activities makes studying for the bee a difficult task.

“I know she didn’t prepare until the last second last time and I want her not to be as stressed out about it,” said Silverberg, “but it’s hard because obviously she has homework that’s due every single day. It seems like it’s far off, so it’s easy to leave studying until the last minute. Hopefully I’ll be helping her prepare well.”

“I’m excited. I’m humble I guess, I’m just trying to stay calm and whatever happens happens. So, if I don’t make it, it wasn’t meant to be,” said Johnson.

In another English department contest , the Shakespeare competition also took place.

For the competition, students had to memorize a 20-line monologue and one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and then perform them before the judges.

This year’s school level winner was junior Frances Nicole Tabios. Tabios worked hard to prepare for the state competition on Feb. 20 at Punahou School with the help of AP teacher Margy O’Kelly.

While the state winner goes to the national competition in New York, the national winner wins a trip to England.

“It’s awesome,” said department chair Jill Sprott. “You actually get to go and walk the streets that Shakespeare walked and be in the theaters…it’s great.”

“I felt anxious to perform in front of other students but also excited to see their performances,” said Tabios. “I worked with Mrs. O’Kelly during recess and after school in preparation for the speech. In addition, I watched videos of different actors performing my  monologue.”

Tabios performed the scene from ”Antony and Cleopatra” in which Antony dies.

“I observed how different actors perform so that I could learn from their interpretations of the scene and get inspiration for my own performance,” said Tabios. “I also researched the context of the scene to properly reenact Cleopatra’s emotions.”

“It was a fun experience participating in the Shakespeare competition,” said Tabios. “It was astonishing to see how passionate some of the performers were.”