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It’s that time of year... the best spellers on island will be under the lights and on the spot at KVZK studios in Utulei Wednesday — the 29th of February (a Leap Year day) — for the annual Territorial Spelling Bee. It is the 18th consecutive spelling bee since the first one was held in the territory in 1995.

"This year's Spelling Bee promises to be more challenging than ever.” says Evelyn Lilio Satele, the official coordinator of the “Bee”.

She noted, “With only a few returning contestants from last year’s competition, the Championship is up for grabs.”

During Friday’s practice, she said, a number of students asked about the “out there” words.  Those are the words that may be called that are not in the study guide.”

“They’re taking their studying far beyond the practice book which, to me, is a sign of commitment and determination to win!” she told Samoa News.

The determination to win the Bee has been evident from the beginning... with long, protracted battles going dozens of rounds each year, it is clear that the teachers and spelling coaches are doing their part, and the contestants are doing their homework.

This year, twenty seven contestants will represent as many schools in the territory, both public and private, and with just five returning students, it really is a new ball game. As in previous years, there will be three judges, listening carefully for the accurate spelling, and two word pronouncers, taking turns saying the words clearly as well as answering questions which are allowed by Bee rules. (”word origin”  “definition” “alternate pronunciation” and “part of speech” are some of the allowable questions.)

Bee organizers encourage the students to use the questions to give them time — because once they commit to a letter, it cannot be changed. Most mistakes are made from being nervous, and trying to spell too fast, said Evelyn, who has coached thousands of children over the Territorial Bee’s 18 year history.

 This year, the former owner of Samoa News, Lewis Wolman will be pronouncing for the students, along with veteran pronouncer Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle, Vice president of Academic and Student affairs at ASCC.

It was Wolman who first agreed to host the territorial Spelling Bee back in 1995. He said that Evelyn (Lilio Satele) had come to Samoa News about sponsoring the Bee, because, according to national Spelling Bee rules, a local newspaper must host the Bee. From that day, the territorial Bee has been produced under the direction and authority of Samoa News, with generous support from the community at large. Major sponsors came forward over the years who were ready and willing to support the fledgling Bee.

According to Wolman, it was (then) Amerika Samoa Bank who became the first major sponsor, followed by the Haleck Foundation. In 2008, Hawaiian Airlines became the Territorial Spelling Bee’s major sponsor and it is with gratitude that Samoa News acknowledges their contribution, and the contribution of the many other community backers.

 Other sponsors for the 2012 Territorial Bee include: Haleck Enterprises, GHC Reid, Bank of Hawaii, Forsgrens, 3M Diner, Carl’s Jr, Pizza Hut, Ace American Industries, ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank, Vai’s Florist, Alanoa’s Florist and Bluesky Communications.

 The island wide winner of this year’s Spelling Bee will be sent to the Scripps National Spelling Bee which takes place in Washington DC  from May 27 to June 1, 2012, and will be broadcast live on ESPN 2 during Bee Week. Samoa News wishes all students who will be participating in the Territorial Spelling Bee the best of luck.