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Cheers to Pursuing Academic Excellence

By Michelle Drake and guest writer Krystal Baker

Cheers and applause filled the auditorium as lower school students celebrated their classmates’ victories in the recent Sword Drill Competition. “I like Sword Drill because I like reading and I can flip through pages quickly and can picture the pages, see a couple of words, and keep flipping like this,” third-grader Colton Hicks said while demonstrating. Colton, who placed Third in his Sword Drill group last year was excited to be awarded First Place this year.

Mrs. Becky Link awarding Colton Hicks First Place for the 2nd/3rd Grade category.

Allison Lloyd, one of our second-grade teachers, leads our in-school Sword Drill competition. The Sword Drill is divided into a 2nd and 3rd-grade competition and a 4th and 5th-grade competition. Our 2nd and 3rd-grade students must find the correct book of the Bible, while 4th and 5th-grade students must find the specific book, chapter, and verse with their fingers on the first word of the verse. Students practice sword drills in their Bible classes. Classroom Bible teachers choose the participants based on their classroom performance. There are three rounds to the competition. In Round 1, twelve students participate in each grade division. Six students compete in Round 2, and Round 3 has three students. Every student who finds the book or verse receives a point. If they are the first person to find it correctly, they receive 3 points. After each round, scores are tabulated to determine who moves on to the next round. Students locate 10 references each in the first two rounds and 5 references in the final round.

Slideshow of 2nd/3rd Grade Sword Drill competition.

This year’s winners for the 2nd-3rd grade group are Michael Tornow (Third Place), Layla Rozier (Second Place), and Colton Hicks (First Place). This year’s winners for the 4th-5th grade group are Zachary Riggs (Third Place), Ananias Woods (Second Place), and Aidan Blanton (First Place). Aidan, who won Second in the contest last year, said, “I like the challenge of racing against everyone to find the book, chapter, and verse first.”

Throughout the school year, our Lower School students have the opportunity to grow and compete in a variety of other academic competitions, including the Spelling Bee, Math by Mail, and Zaner-Bloser Handwriting competition.

Lori Smejkal, one of our fourth-grade teachers, leads our in-house lower school Spelling Bee every winter. The Spelling Bee is divided into two competitions: Grades 1-2 and Grades 3-5. Students who excel in spelling are chosen by their classroom teachers to participate. The entire Lower School, as well as parents and other guests, are invited to watch and cheer as students compete. The top three participants in each grade division receive awards to recognize their accomplishments. The Spelling Bee gives students an opportunity to sharpen their academic skills by studying a list of prepared words which they receive several weeks prior to the Spelling Bee. Students are taught to encourage each other and build up others which have always been a focus at SBCS.

This year, the winners for 1st-2nd grades are Vincent Bulmer (3rd place), Lily Weimer (2nd place), and Isobel Seymour (1st place). Isobel, who placed second last year, said she worked extra hard this year to try to get first place. When asked why she liked participating in the Spelling Bee, Isobel answered, “I’m good at it because I like to read.” For the 3rd-5th grades, the winners of this year’s Spelling Bee are Jace Wilson (3rd place), Micah Bryson (2nd Place), and Angie Tolentino (1st Place). Angie Tolentino said the Bee was pretty fun and that she “studied for about 15-30 minutes every night” to do her best.

Slideshow of students participating in the Spelling Bee.

Krystal Baker, one of our fifth-grade teachers, heads up our Math By Mail (formerly called Math Olympics), which is an Association of Christian Schools International competition. Students in grades 3-8 are eligible and compete against students from other ASCI schools in our region. Each math teacher chooses the students to participate based on their in-class performance, as well as a practice test. Students need to be proficient in both speed and accuracy in either the Computation Category or the Reasoning Category. We can have up to 3 students per grade in each of the two categories. Once the school participants are chosen, they take 4 individual timed tests proctored by Mrs. Baker in an achievement test-type setting. These are graded and scores are submitted to the host school in our district. Once all schools have submitted their scores, prizes are awarded based on first-fifth place overall in our district.

Slideshow of Lower School Students participating in Math By Mail.

Kaleb Allen won 3rd place in the 4th-grade computation category for our district, and Lilia Vlachos won 4th place in the 5th-grade computation category. Kaleb said, “I love math!” and that he gets it and likes it better than reading. Kaleb added that standardized testing this week made him think about math more and inspired him to work harder for next year’s competition.

We have had a student place in the state Zaner-Bloser Handwriting competition this year, which will be announced during Academic Awards Chapel in the coming weeks! Mrs. Link, who has been serving SBCS either as a teacher or administrator for more than 25 years, said she enjoys seeing our students who excel in these academic areas be honored and compete in front of their peers. “I love seeing our students go the extra mile to qualify and prepare for these events. It is fun to watch their classmates cheer them on!” she added.

Each of these competitions helps our students grow in their knowledge and achieve excellence in academics. Students learn to compete well, showing good sportsmanship and positive attitudes. They also learn the importance of using their strengths for God’s glory, and, as Colossians exhorts, to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17).

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