By Chatrice Barnes, University Relations Intern

When most people think of a spelling bee they think about those Friday afternoons in their 3rd grade English class or more commonly the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But members of the UTC faculty and staff proved that you’re never too old to participate in a spelling bee and help with a great cause at the same time.

From left to right: Sandy Cole, Theresa Leidtka, Harold Archie (a graduate of Re:Start), Laura Bond, Adrienne Teague

Re:Start- The Center For Adult Education that works to improve adult literacy rates and provides GED test prep. On September 23 Re:Start held its 19th annual “Great Grown Up Spelling Bee” to help bring awareness to adult illiteracy.

Laura Bond, Theresa Leidtka, Adrienne Teague, and “Coach” Sandy Cole made up the UTC team. Sandy Cole, who sits on the Re:Start board of directors, relives the history making moments.

“We marched to the Tennessee Pavilion to take our place in history. EPB, Brewer Media, Morning Pointe and UTC teams got their numbers and paced as they awaited their turns on the staged. UTC, the last team to spell, took our place on the stage and with hundreds of witnesses made history as we won first place and the hand-designed “B” trophy,” said Cole, Director of the Center for Community Career Education at UTC.

The event was hosted by WRCB-Channel 3 news anchor, Jed Mescon, who calmed the participants’ nerves, as this was the first time the Bee was held in public. Re:Start gave the traditional spelling bee a new twist. BEES or Business, Education, and Economic Stakeholders competed in teams of four. Each participant was allowed 60 seconds to spell as many words as possible to add to the team’s total points.

“It was for a great cause. Re:Start does such good work in the community. And UTC helped sponsor the event, so I was glad to participate even though it was kind of embarrassing when you get nervous and you start spelling words wrong that you know how to spell,” explained Laura Bond, University Staff Writer.

The UTC Bees were faced with GED prep words like newsstand, Chattahoochee, embryo, murmur, curious, tyranny and river.

“I was sitting there trying to practice, practice, practice and I’m sure everybody else was, and I got up there. Then when I finished Jed said ‘I’ve never heard curious spelled that way’ and I said ‘How’d I spell it?’ and he said ‘q-u-r-i-o-u-s’,” said Cole.

Theresa Leidtka, Dean of Lupton Library added, “I think they asked me to be on the team because they assumed I was a good speller because I’m a librarian. I had to inform them I am not a good speller. Good reader, not good speller.”

A few misspelled words along the way did not keep the UTC Bees from buzzing their way to a linguistic triumph. Achievements like this help further the educational development of adults who turn to Re:Start for help.

“I think the partnership between UTC and Re:Start is extremely important because on one arm of the education spectrum we provide this great resource to people who want to further their degree. On the other end, Re:Start provides a great service for people to earn a preliminary degree to start that educational process. As we work towards improved retention and graduation on our end, they work towards getting you ‘restarte’” in your educational process. You have to have your restart and your completion as well,” said Adrienne Teague, Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs.

The number of words spelled correctly remains a mystery, but the all-women UTC team spelled their way to victory in the midst of the Chattanooga Market. When asked, “How does it feel to be a winner?” Cole happily suggested “We should get Chuck Cantrell to put us on the train, and all four of us ride all around campus with the trophy!”

An afternoon of friendly competition, lots of laughs and community leaders came together to improve the lives of adults who need to restart their education—it’s the best way to describe the 19th annual “Great Grown Up Spelling Bee.”

Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call (423) 425-4363.