The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

June 25, 2013

Local student competes in History Bee

Marine biology, Spanish, writing and singing are just a few of a soon-to-be seventh-grader’s educational goals. But for now, history is her focus.

Brittany Blair, 12, qualified for nationals in the History Bee and competed in Atlanta earlier this month. Brittany moved to Enid from Guthrie and began attending sixth grade at Pleasant Vale Elementary School in January.

Brittany loved history at her old school, but with the encouragement of Debbie Whatley, one of the sixth-grade social studies teachers at Pleasant Vale, she pursued the subject further.

“She (Debbie) took it to a whole new level … she inspired me to do well,” Brittany said.

This was Pleasant Vale’s first year competing in the History Bee. Brittany described the competitions as being similar to “Jeopardy!” without having to say “what is” or “who is.” Clues are read to the competitors until someone buzzes in with the right answer. Questions can be anything current events or history related, from art to war to sports, Brittany said.

Whatley sponsored a written test to get qualifiers for the regional level competition. Brittany, along with the three other finalists from Pleasant Vale, had to take a computerized, timed test consisting of about 80 questions.

“I like pressure,” Brittany said.

All four finalists qualified for regionals and traveled to Wichita, Kan., on March 1 to compete. Three rounds and 90 questions later, Brittany qualified for the national level in Atlanta and competed against 427 participants. Although she did not place, she said she “loved every bit of it.”

“It was an honor even to be accepted,” Brittany said.

Brittany hopes to become more involved with academic programs in the future, such as Quiz Bowl.

“She’s always been an intellectual person,” Brooke Malaska, Brittany’s mother, said. “Academics is her thing.”

Brittany and her little sister, Bailey, witnessed Malaska achieving her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Oklahoma State University. She now teaches at Hoover Elementary School.

Malaska said she always encouraged Brittany to read and emphasized the importance of education.

“I really like education,” Brittany said. “Without it, you don’t get anywhere.”

Whatley, who also is the History Bee sponsor, tries to challenge her students. Brittany always wanted to “go the extra mile,” she said. When given an assignment, Brittany usually would do her own research on the topic beyond the homework and talk to Whatley about her findings.

“She’d take it home and read it and devour it,” Whatley said. “I really enjoyed working with her. She’s so enthusiastic.”

Whatley has been teaching at Pleasant Vale for 22 years. She teaches fifth- and sixth-grade social studies, coaches Quiz Bowl, and sponsors scholastic team, National Geography Bee and now the History Bee.

Brittany likes the teachers at Pleasant Vale and said there are more academic opportunities here.

“They make you feel like a real person,” Brittany said. “I feel more at home here.”

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