Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
The number speaks for itself: 24 national champions.
But somehow, educator and Spelling Bee coach the Reverend Glen Archer is still hungry for more. Most coaches would be elated to just have one champion - or maybe two - over the course of a career. But that's just not Archer. First of all, it's not about him.
"The motivation to help students achieve excellence is a driving force," he said after his latest charge, Christian Allen, took the all-island Spelling Bee title on Wednesday.
"Secondly, I see it as a ministry to build character."
Archer, not for the first time, had the top-three spellers in the national final, Stephen Nelson and Chaunte Blackwood also being his students.
NOT GEARING DOWN
The veteran coach says it's always a balancing act to identify each speller's strength and encourage them to use it to their advantage. But despite the workload and, at times, bouts with ill health, the reverend is still motoring along. And he's not gearing down either.
"I take my programme up a notch each year," he said, explaining he summarised the Oxford 3,650-page dictionary down to 60 pages. "Needless to say, I prayed before I did anything," he said, noting the source of his content. Like other years, while congratulating the champion, Archer had to console another student who just missed the title. This year the latter was Stephen Nelson, who Archer thought would take it.
"Stephen is the better speller," Archer admitted. "It could have gone to him. He kept beating Christian in training, but I told Christian to win when it mattered most." He remembers every champion, and still ranks Garfield Grandison (not to be confused with the current Gleaner editor-in-chief) as the most gifted speller he ever trained.
"Now, these spellers are willing to learn, so I use my experience to train them well," he said. "Like I said, it's all about character building."
His methods aren't popular with everyone; too strict, they say. He isn't always seen as the best sportsman; some think he's a sore loser. He remains unfazed. But no matter how many champions he has, and how many he may get before he's done, Father Time is undefeated. He knows this won't last forever. But he's looking to leave a mark.
"What I might eventually do is train the teachers," he said. "I'm looking at raising the standard of the Bee in Jamaica." And then, showing the comical side some don't know he has, he added, laughing: "But I need a big contract!"