These winning spellers walked the talk and went on to win the Literacy Council of Alaska’s 29th annual Biz Bee competition, which raised an estimated $20,470 for the agency last week.

The team, “Sam I Am,” was from Healy and included Tri-Valley School librarian Martha Tomeo, former school librarian Amanda Austin and school secretary Sarah Walker.

“When I was first asked if I wanted to do it, I could not in good conscience say anything but yes,” said Martha Tomeo. “I’m an advisor for the Tri-Valley School spelling bee. You’ve got to walk the talk, right? And it’s for a great cause. So I said, sure.

“Since I ask every student in grades three through eight to put themselves out there and give it a shot, I should do it too.”

Amanda Austin has served as the school spelling bee official pronouncer. This was Tomeo’s second time competing, Austin’s first, and Walker’s third event. Walker said her only previous spelling bee experience included being on a team when she was a freshman in high school.

The team practiced a bit beforehand, after finding a few spelling quizzes online.

“It’s really more about life experiences,” Walker said. “Things you learn over the years.”

The Biz Bee experience was a happy one and the team, from down the highway, felt welcome by everyone.

“So many nice people came up afterwards,” Walker said. “It was so fun.”

The winning word came down to two teams, narrowed down from 20 teams competing. 

The Word Nerds aka FNSB Department of Community Planning misspelled the word “diseur,” defined as a skilled and usually professional reciter, as of verse spoken to music.

The Sam I Am team, aka Tri-Valley School, spelled “diseur” correctly and then correctly spelled the final word, “agar,” defined as any of various culture media having a type of colloidal extractives of certain red algae as a solidifying agent.

Usibelli Coal Mine sponsored the team from Healy.

The Literacy Council of Alaska promotes literacy for people of all ages in the Interior. The organization provides student-centered tutoring and classes for adults in reading, writing, math, English as a second language, computer literacy and other life skills.

For more information and photos from the Biz Bee, see the Our Town feature in Saturday’s Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.


Student Project

Tri-Valley High School senior Ben Brown, of Denali, helped his community with a National Honor Society project collecting food and bags for the local Neighbor to Neighbor Food Bank.

“It went really well,” Ben Brown said. “We got a total of 253 pounds of food, toilet paper and paper towels.

“I was shocked at the number of bags, toilet paper and paper towels that were donated,” he added. “This is really good for the Food Bank as they didn’t have much of those things before the food drive.

“Overall, it went great.”

Brown spearheaded the week-long food/bag drive as a project for the National Honor Society, of which he is a member. Food/bags were collected from all the school classes, the community and from Three Bears Grocery Store.

The National Honor Society is a nationwide organization for high school students. Membership selection is based on scholarship, leadership, service and character.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.