celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

Bee hopeful hits books

D.C. to host national competition in May

By Nicole King

For 13-year-old James Walker, this could be the year.

The seventh-grader at San Jacinto Christian Academy is preparing to compete in the Association of Christian Schools International National Spelling Bee scheduled for May 10 in Washington, D.C.

James placed second at the ACSI regional spelling bee in Dallas on Feb. 23, competing against 61 spellers from six states.

Last year, he missed the cut for nationals. This year, he's aiming for a top-10 finish.

He admits to getting nervous.

"Once you're getting close to where you're trying to get to, if you mess up a letter, you don't get to advance," James said. "You don't really get over it very easily. You hope you get an easy word. One that you've heard of before."

James also plays basketball and runs track; something he took advantage of to calm down during competition.

"The regional started at eight o'clock in the morning and I woke up early and went to the gym in the hotel and ran on the treadmill," he said.

James' dad, Whit Walker, said his son has always been a fast learner.

"He taught himself to read, and he was reading in kindergarten," Whit said. "He's a very good kid and he does good academically and he does well in sports. He's a very well-rounded person."

Whit Walker said James didn't get his spelling ability from him. He said he did poorly in spelling in school.

James' older sister Bethany competed in a regional competition, but never qualified for the national spelling bee.

"We're very proud," said Marsha Walker, James' mother. "There's still a lot of work to do, though."

James has a study word list for the national competition and has started looking it over. His parents and his grandmother usually help him study.

"There are about 100 pages," he said. "Most of them are pretty hard."

Unfortunately, the judges stop using the published list after about three rounds, James said, and start selecting words out of a dictionary.

He tries to sound words out in his head before he spells them.

"If you get one that sounds pretty easy, you figure there must be a trick to it to make it hard," he said.

And asking for a definition does help.

"If you're thinking that it's one word, if it's two words that sound the same, you can figure out which one it is," James said.

Some of the words James had to spell at regionals:

1. lexicon

2. pilgrimage

3. imbue

4. perspicacious

5. neurosis

6. shipwright

7. bergamot

8. decoupage

9. otorhinolaryngologist

10. tableau

11. acquiesced

12. habiliment

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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