Weber’s second annual Poetry Out Loud competition


(Poetry Out Loud)

Brooke Orenstein

On November 3, Weber hosted its second annual Poetry Out Loud competition. Thirteen sophomore students competed and recited poetry to a panel of five judges. Each student was required to fully memorize and articulate a poem selected from the Poetry Out Loud anthology that they could relate to.

According to Poetry Out Loud, their program allows for students to gain knowledge in the field of poetry. “This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life,” their website says.

“Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3 million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state, Washington, DC, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.” Last year’s Poetry Out Loud National Champion was Samara Elán Huggins from Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Georgia. The national champion receives the grand prize of 20,000 dollars. 

While Weber’s competition was very close, Jacob Botnick came in first place, Shira Brown in second place and Caroline Schneider in third.

These students, in addition to their other participating peers, presented their selected poems in front of the whole school, during the weekly school-wide Kehillah. As they performed, a panel of selected judges graded the students’ performances on the following categories: physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding and overall performance. The judges included:

  • Holly Chesser: English teacher and former Literary Magazine Advisor
  • Amber Singleton: Professional artist and Dean of Fine and Performing Arts
  • Corinne Skott: AP Language and Composition, and freshman English teacher
  • John Burke: Grammy-nominated pianist who serves as the music director for Weber’s fall and spring musicals, as well as teaches social entrepreneurship
  • Cassandra Henderson: Weber’s Performing Arts Director; Henderson has worked in various aspects of the entertainment industry including theatre, film, t.v. and radio over the last thirty years.

After all of the students performed, the judges calculated their scores based on the graded categories and chose Jacob Botnick as the winner. Jacob performed “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke. He has only acted for the first time this year in Weber’s school play, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” He hopes to expand on his acting in the future, along with Poetry Out Loud.

Sophomore Jacob Botnick performing his chosen poem. (The Weber School / Rebecca McCullough)

When asked how he prepared, Jacob said, “I practiced for two hours everyday, and I recited it in front of my parents for extra help.”

Jacob will now be competing in the Metro Atlanta Regional Competition in February. He will have to memorize an additional poem in order to continue in the competition.

Weber holds the Poetry Out Loud competition every year, so those that are interested should be on the lookout next year.