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Three of the four judges at the 2018 Denver Post Colorado State Spelling Bee were MSU Denver faculty members. Photo by John Arnold

Professors spell h-e-l-p-i-n-g

MSU Denver continues contributing judges to Colorado bee.

March 20, 2018

By Doug McPherson

There’s no doubting some MSU Denver professors’ devotion to the annual Denver Post Colorado State Spelling Bee, where hundreds of elementary- and middle-schoolers strut their spelling skills.

And the latest bee, held March 10, was a good example – three of the four judges were MSU Denver professors. In fact, MSU Denver has had bee judges for decades.

“I think it’s fantastic that MSU Denver takes part in them,” says Andrew Pantos, J.D., Ph.D., associate professor in MSU Denver’s Department of English. “It’s great to be able to serve the Denver community and represent MSU Denver at the same time.”

This year was Pantos’ fourth time at the judges’ table. “I was asked to help out by a fellow judge, and I enjoyed it,” he says.

That judge was Pam Troyer, fellow MSU Denver English professor, who has judged Colorado’s bee for 10 years. This year, she served as the head judge – the one who talks with the spellers if they ask for a word’s language of origin, for example. The other judges are termed “dictionary judges” and research words to be used in the competition.

“I love doing it, and I have tremendous respect for students who come to spell and honor the rules,” Troyer says. “We try to help them be their best selves. They take it seriously, so we want it to be as helpful as possible.”

From left, word reader and master of ceremonies Charlie Samson, KVOD radio and former MSU Denver music instructor; judge Zoe Lapin, former copy editor at the Rocky Mountain News; head judge Pam Troyer, MSU Denver English professor; judge David Mitchell, MSU Denver linguistics professor; and judge Andrew Pantos, MSU Denver linguistics professor.

Another MSU Denver judge this year was David Mitchell, a scholar of Sanskrit and African American vernacular English.

Before those three professors, there was emeritus professor Ed Low, who’s been with the bee for more than 25 years. He eventually became a judge for the Scripps National Bee held near Washington, D.C.

Another emeritus professor, Robin Quizar from MSU Denver’s linguistics program, has judged the bee several times.

And Charlie Samson, a former instructor in MSU Denver’s Music Department, has served as the word reader and master of ceremonies.

Plus, MSU Denver has sponsored several state bees, put on by the Denver Post Foundation.

Nearly 300 students took part in this year’s contest. Angelina Holm, 11, claimed the crown of Colorado’s top young speller and will advance to compete for a $40,000 cash prize in the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. The winning word was “helminthiasis,” which is an infestation of parasitic worms.

Over the 78-year history of Colorado students competing in the National Bee, a Colorado student has won the national title seven times: 1957, 1959, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1989 and 2002.

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