Monday, January 23, 2012

English professor asked again to pronounce for regional spelling bee


Margie Lippard takes the stage
during one of her previous rounds
as a spelling bee pronouncer.
Between teaching composition at Randolph College and raising money for local nonprofits, Margie Lippard does not have a lot of free time on hand. But these days, what free time she does have is often spent reciting words and definitions.

Lippard will be the pronouncer for the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee next month. This will be her third year pronouncing all the bee’s spelling words, along with definitions, sentences, and other helps contestants can ask for. Although it requires careful practice, it is an event Lippard has come to look forward to.

“For a teacher of composition, it’s a pleasure to have students expand their vocabulary, know how to use words in sentences, and be really sensitive to the sounds of a word, to work it out if they don't quite know the word,” said Lippard.

Pronouncing words accurately and well comes naturally to Lippard: Her first job after college was teaching writing and speech at Harvard Business School. In her current full-time position as director of development for United Way of Central Virginia, she addresses audiences throughout the region to discuss the needs of nonprofit agencies and fundraising.

In 2010, Lippard began teaching “Finding Your Voice,” a writing course taken by many first year students at Randolph College. She likes being back in the classroom several hours each week.

“I thoroughly enjoy seeing the students progress in their writing and their ability to express their voice, she said. “They are so intelligent and curious and have great ideas. I love the mix of student-athletes and non-athletes, male students and female students, and multicultural students. The more diverse the classroom, the better the experience.”

Lippard said writing is both an art and a science, with spelling placed in the science side. In a world where Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging can foster communication with hasty misspellings and abbreviations, teaching at Randolph and serving in the spelling bee provide a breath of fresh air, she said.

“Spelling matters. It matters for a sense of pride as a writer. It matters to the reader, who relies on accurate spelling to convey meaning. It shows respect for communication and literature,” Lippard said. “Without correct spelling, our communication can become incoherent.”

“I see a great synergy between the mission of the spelling bee and the mission of the English Department here, and also the mission of the United Way, where one of our impact areas is education,” she said.

This year’s spelling bee will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, February 18, at the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Middle School for Innovation. The winner of the regional spelling bee will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.