Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

April 17, 2014

Teachers earn an 'A' with 'abecedarius'

Spirited fundraiser draws a youthful crowd

Submitted by Anita Madan Renton Andover Fund for Education, Board of Directors
The Andover Townsman

---- — “Abecedarius,” a poem in which the first letter of every word, line or stanza follows the order of the alphabet, was the winning word at the Andover Fund for Education’s 16th annual Community Spelling Bee last Friday night, April 11.

Andover High School’s Word Warriors team — comprised of Ellen Gaudiano, Laurie Francis-Wright, Charlie Keene and Patricia Whalen — was crowned the 2014 Spelling Bee champions after a lively contest that featured 11 school teams and another six community teams each featuring four adult spellers.

Other winners included High Plain Elementary School, which was awarded the coveted Spirit Trophy given to the school supported by the most enthusiastic fans, and West Elementary School’s Punktuators team, which earned honors as Best Team Costume.

The bee drew a near-capacity crowd of intrepid spellers and energetic supporters to Doherty Middle School for the evening of entertainment and friendly competition to support educational innovation in the Andover Public Schools.

All of Andover’s public schools fielded teams, as did the Andover Rotary Club (two teams), Atria Marland Place, Andover Village Improvement Society, Kiwanis Cub of Greater Lawrence and the League of Women Voters.

The event attracted many students eager to cheer on their favorite teachers and a highlight of the evening came just before the championship round as the young supporters of the school teams marched around the auditorium in a freewheeling Spirit Parade.

A number of school and town officials added their support and enthusiasm to the evening. Robin Wilson, principal of Doherty Middle School, offered an opening welcome and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marinel McGrath also addressed the audience at the start of the bee. Selectman Alex Vispoli presided over the event as master of ceremonies.

Other local officials served as round moderators and word “pronouncers,” including Dr. Colleen McBride, principal of South Elementary School; Steve Murray, principal of West Middle School; Dr. Christopher Lord, principal of Andover High School; newly elected School Committee member Joel Blumstein, and Jim McConaughy, former president of Andover Fund for Education. Judges included Selectman Brian Major; former Andover Townsman editor Neil Fater of Challenge Unlimited in Andover, and Colleen Georgian of the Andover Youth Council.

At the end of the bee, three lucky audience members received door prizes donated by Orange Leaf and Whole Foods.

This year’s bee raised over $4,000 for AFE’s innovation mini-grants, which are awarded to Andover Public School educators who propose creative classroom projects that address the core curriculum.

To highlight the benefits of the organization’s grants, West Middle School teacher Dan Miley led his engineering students at the event in a demonstration of the use of remote-controlled vehicles they designed and built. The project received funding from AFE.

Founded in 1991, AFE is a nonprofit organization of community volunteers dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Andover schools. New members are always welcome. Visit for more.

For more about the bee, AFE’s grants and its unique “Honor a Teacher” initiative, visit