The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 10, 2012

At 10, girl has her life ‘spelled’ out’

Grandmother inspires Kingsville student to excel; inspires her to win spelling bee

Staff Writer

KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP — When Aubri Marsh was 4, she made up her mind to become a doctor so she could help people suffering from lupus.

Four years later, Aubri tweaked her life plan and inserted a teaching career path.

“I’m going to become a teacher first, then I am going to build up the money I earn and become a doctor,” says Aubri, a fifth-grade student at Kingsville Elementary School. “I have a life plan all figured out. I have it written in a journal. ... I decided to have a plan rather than just make it up as you go along.”

On Monday, Aubri, 10, advanced a couple of notches in the teaching aspect of her life plan. She won her school’s spelling bee, demonstrating skill in an area that she feels is important to students’ success. Aubri said she needs to be a good speller so her students also will master spelling.

It’s all part of the plan.

“Actually, I’ve been (preparing for the spelling bee) all my life,” says Aubri, who will read the same book two or three times in one day.

Her favorite book these days is “Everything On It,” a poetry book by Shel Silverstein.

“Reading poem books helps me express my feelings about what is happening to me at school, like if I am bullied,” Aubri says. “I also write poetry to help express myself.”

Aubri credits her grandmother, Diana Nejbauer of North Kingsville, for imparting this love of the written word. Diana and her husband, Ron, are raising Aubri and her two siblings.

She says her grandmother read to her from time she was a baby.

“She’s the one who has raised me; she did everything for me and read to me and read to me,” Aubri said. “I look up to her a lot.”

It also was Diana Nejbauer who suggested that Aubri enter the school’s spelling bee and then worked with her every night on the word lists.

“My grandmother encouraged me to try to win because I had never won something like that,” Aubri said. “She helped me a lot every day. We went over each word more than twice.”

Diana Nejbauer said Aubri began teaching her younger brother to read as soon as she had the skill. “She works with him, it’s awesome,” says Nejbauer. “I call her ‘my little mini-me.’”

Unfortunately, circumstances prevented Nejbauer from attending the spelling bee on Monday. Had she been there, she would have witnessed a nail-bitter that went 12 rounds, seven of them between Aubri and fourth-graders Sawyer Yasenchack and Ryan Green. After eliminating the other 21 contestants, the three students battled it out until it came down to just Aubri and Sawyer. After Sawyer tripped over “astrophysicist,” Aubri won the round with  “coward” and won the bee with “waitress.”

Sawyer, the runner up, said he prepared for the bee by working on the word list with his parents. Like Aubri, Sawyer loves to read.

“Big books,” Sawyer says when asked what he reads. “The new book out, ‘Inheritance,’ about a boy and a dragon. I read fantasy, science fiction books.”

Ryan, who came in third, also is a voracious reader. His older sister, Emily, a sixth-grader at Braden, won that school’s spelling bee last week and helped Ryan prepare for his turn at the microphone.

Reflecting on the words that gave him trouble, Ryan said he will focus on big words as he prepares for the spelling bee next year.

Aubri planned to celebrate with friends at Burger King on Monday night, and her grandmother said they will take her out to eat tonight at her favorite buffet.

“I think it is wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” Diana Nejbauer says. “I’m so proud of her. I told her she is going to do great things.”

Nejbauer said she wants to take her granddaughter all the way to the state spelling bee. Next stop is the district spelling bee, 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at Braden. Aubri and her grandmother will have a very busy week ahead of them.

“I told her that as soon as you get home, you start going over those words,” Nejbauer said.

“Every night, I’m going to study very hard,” Aubri said. “But it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.  I’m just glad to have a chance to be in the bee.”