St. Mary student a five-time winner at geography bees

Sunday, March 15, 2009
Nick Essner, 13, an eighth-grade student at St. Mary Cathedral School in Cape Girardeau is the winner of five geographic bees. Essner won his first geographic bee in fourth grade.

An atlas and globe are familiar objects in the Essner home in Cape Girardeau. Conversations stem from watching the news and discussing current events.

This casual learning environment at home helped Nick Essner, an eighth-grade student at St. Mary Cathedral School in Cape Girardeau, add to his knowledge base and win the classroom National Geographic Bees at St. Mary's five years in a row.

The National Geographic Bee operates on five different levels: classroom, school, state qualification test, state and national. Students can compete from fourth grade to fifth grade.

"Nick competed all five years and became the winner of the school bee when he was in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades," said Carol Strattman, St. Mary School principal, in an e-mail. "As our school bee winner, Nick took a 60-question written test provided by National Geographic. Nick's entry placed him in the top 100 last year and he competed in the state geography bee in Columbia, Mo. His written entry did not qualify him for state this year."

Nick sat down for a few questions from the Southeast Missourian.

Nick Essner, 13, is a five-time geographic bee winner.

Chris Pagano: Do you and your family travel?

Nick Essner: Yes, I have traveled all over the U.S. and the Caribbean. I have even been to Alaska. I think it gave me a pretty nice edge over the competition in the bees.

CP: Was last year's qualifying exam for the state geography bee particularly hard?

NE: Yes. The exams every year are extremely hard.

CP: Is there a teacher or mentor that coached you?

NE: My mom helped every year and Debra Skaggs (eighth grade social studies/computer teacher) helped last year. Well, in fourth grade my mom would quiz me with this book we have, and I also had this hand-held globe game that I played.

CP: If you study, how much time does getting ready for a bee require?

NE: Well, I never really studied much, but if I had, I probably would have made it to nationals last year because I only missed one question and had I known that one I might have made it.

CP: Do you participate in a student tutor group at school?

NE: No, there are no student tutor groups at my school.

CP: Why do you think it's important to learn geography?

NE: It helps you in a ton of ways and in a lot of subjects. I've even encountered geography questions in my Spanish I class this year.

CP: How do your parents feel about your accomplishment?

NE: Both of my parents are very proud of me and they encourage me to try harder.

CP: Which career(s) are you considering?

NE: I've been considering becoming some sort of doctor or a pharmacist or maybe even a sports announcer for ESPN if I could.

CP: Do you get nervous before a bee?

NE: Yes, I shake like crazy.

CP: What do you do to control the nervousness so it doesn't interfere with your concentration?

NE: I tap my leg and try and concentrate harder on the questions.


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