Phairphax Spellerz win Reaching Heights 'Silver' Spelling Bee

Krista Hawthorne (left) presents the Reaching Heights Spelling Bee trophy to the Phairphax Spellerz: Julia Powell, Kirsten Parkinson and Kate Macleod.

The Phairphax Spellerz, representing Fairfax Elementary School, clinched the coveted plastic bee trophy in the ninth round of the 25th annual Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee on April 20. Winning team members Kate Macleod, Julie Powell and Kirsten Parkinson correctly spelled the word “perovskite”—a mineral comprised of an oxide of calcium, titanium and rare earth elements. Honoring the 25th anniversary of this fundraising event, the “Silver Bee” included a visual history projected onscreen, silver-themed spelling words, and two costumed “silver bees” who shared silver-wrapped candies with contestants and audience members.

The competition started strong with a perfect first round in which every team spelled its first word correctly. All but two of the original 21 teams held on through round three—the Musical Round—in which teams could advance in spite of one incorrect, missing or extra letter, provided they sang the spelling of their word. In rounds four and five, 11 teams misspelled their words and left the stage. Six more teams fell in rounds six and seven, and three final teams emerged: O.O.P.S. (Orchestral Orthographers Prognosticate Success), four-time winners, representing the Cleveland Orchestra; Rox Rocks!, representing Roxboro Elementary and Middle schools; and the Phairphax Spellerz, which ultimately triumphed, earning its first win.

Reaching Heights, a nonprofit that mobilizes community resources to support Heights public schools, acknowledged the work of two individuals who established the Bee as an annual event: Linda Logan, the first executive director of Reaching Heights, and Donalene Poduska, a co-chair of the first Bee committee.

In its 25 years, the Bee has raised more than $175,000, funding hundreds of school grants and programs, such as Many Villages Tutoring, role-model speakers in fifth-grade classrooms, and the Exceptional Children’s Advocacy Group (ECAG).

Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun toy store, celebrated his 21st year as master of ceremonies; Nancy Levin, director of Heights Libraries, was the pronouncer; and Steve Titchenal, for the 23rd year, projected the words onscreen for the audience to see.

Tony Zupancic, retired Notre Dame College professor, served as a judge, as did Brian Williams, coordinator of alternative learning for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District and Talisa Dixon, superintendent of the school district. 

Team sponsors included two groups of Jazzercisers; Coventry Merchants; Camp Roosevelt-Firebird; Heights High Alumni; and many individuals from Cleveland Heights and University Heights, including Nancy Dietrich, who celebrated her 24th year as a speller in the bee. Cleveland Heights City Council members; board of education members; Montlack Realty; Friends of the Heights Libraries; SS&D Foundation; Quintana’s Barber & Dream Spa; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; Forest Hill Presbyterian Church; and the Noble Elementary School, Fairfax Elementary School and Roxboro PTAs all generously sponsored teams. Upper Case, the team representing Case Western Reserve University, was fundraising champion again this year, raising more than $1,200. 

For more information about Reaching Heights, visit or call 216-932-5110.

Krista Hawthorne

Krista Hawthorne is the executive director of Reaching Heights.

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Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 10:58 AM, 04.26.2016