After crushing the dreams of schoolchildren, I now turn to crushing the dreams of adults.

Now, I’m not really crushing anyone’s dreams, but being a spelling bee judge is not for the faint of heart.

After serving as a word pronouncer for the Kenosha Unified School District’s Middle School Spelling Bee in January, I was asked to be one of the judges for the Kenosha Literacy Council Corporate Spelling Bee.

Luckily, I will not be alone at the judges’ table. With me are veteran judges Rolly Peckus and Jennie Tunkieicz. (Spelling “Tunkieicz” is a bee in and of itself, but I’ve known Jennie since high school, and we worked together several years here at the K-News, so I’ve had lots of practice.)

When asked why volunteering for the Literacy Council’s bee is a good fit, Tunkieicz said, “Throughout my life, reading and writing have given me joy.

“Writing was my career for 21 years as a newspaper reporter and editor. I can’t imagine not being able to be absorbed in a good book — or to chuckle at a great newspaper column!”

She added: “I take for granted my ability write a letter to a friend or release some emotions through penning a poem. The staff and dedicated volunteers at the Literacy Council help make those things a reality for adults who didn’t have the excellent teachers I did in Kenosha public schools, or those people who come from other countries in search of a better life for their families, but they can’t speak or read English.”

Tunkieicz and Peckus both said they feel honored to support the work done by the Literacy Council.

“I’m involved in this event to give back to the organization that does so much to help so many,” Peckus said. “The Kenosha Literacy Council has helped hundreds of people, without judgment or bias. I could not be more proud of the Kenosha Literacy Council and the people who are involved in the program.”

He adds: “I was terrible at reading in my youth, and I see this as another way of paying it forward. The teachers in my elementary school saw my failings and interceded in my education to help me to be more accomplished.”

This year’s word pronouncer is Jenny Workman (that’s the really tough job; no pressure, Jenny!). The scribe is Jodi Diderrich, who writes down each letter as the speller says it, and the time keeper is Carmela Parker.

‘Great Gatsby’ theme

Cheryl Hernandez, the Literacy Council’s executive director, said the event is going strong in its 20th year.

In fact, it’s roaring. This year’s event has a Roaring Twenties/”Great Gatsby” theme.

And that fits in perfectly with its new venue, The Stella Hotel and Ballroom, a historic landmark that reopens Monday after extensive renovations.

“We add a theme every year, which makes it more fun,” Hernandez said. “We were excited to learn The Stella would be open in time for our event because it goes along perfectly with our 1920s theme.”

“The Great Gatsby” is all about style and glamour — Hernandez is hoping to see plenty of ‘20s-style outfits — and she’s looking forward to “some glamorous fun with hors d’oeuvres and a spectacular silent auction.”

This event is also the group’s biggest fundraiser and will feature Literacy Council adult learners “sharing their inspiring stories,” Hernandez said.

Asked how big an impact the group has in this area, Hernandez said, “Last year, 207 volunteers helped 515 adult learners from 40 different countries improve their literacy skills so that they were better able to care for their families, get a job and become more active in the community.” (And you thought it was all about spelling words like “Gewurztraminer” ... but maybe I’m just thirsty.)

Disclaimer: If any words are misspelled in this column, I intend to blame the city editor.

Have a comment? Email Liz at esnyder@kenoshanews.com, or call her at 262-656-6271.

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