Viera students win another ocean science academic competition


Viera High School's ocean science academic team recently competed in the 2019 Florida Manatee Bowl with the B Team winning a title for Viera for the third straight year. Students were tested on their knowledge of ocean-related topics, which included cross-disciplines of biology, chemistry, policy, physics and geology.

carl Kotala

Viera High School’s ocean science academic team is turning into quite the competitive powerhouse in the state of Florida.

Yep, we’re talking three-peat.

Viera’s Dani Dowgiallo, JoJo Campbell, Aleena Argull, Katelyn Palmer and J. Ungos — who make up Viera’s B team — won the Manatee Bowl, which was held in late February at FAU Harbor Branch in Fort Pierce.

There were 16 teams from 10 different high schools from Key West to Jacksonville at the regional competition, which tested students on their ocean science knowledge through buzzer-style, multiple-choice questions and open-ended, team challenge questions.

Viera’s third consecutive win means five students will head to the 22nd annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), which takes place April 11 to 14 in Washington D.C.

Morgan Woodard, who teaches marine sciences at Viera and served as the team’s coach along with her mother, Debbie Tweedie, and Viera High alumnus Oscar Sang, said she was impressed with the way the team came together.

“The interesting thing about the B Team is that all five of the girls … they’re kind of the same person,” Woodard said. “They are really smart, obviously. They are quiet, really studious, but not the type of person you would think would be really confident in an academic competition.

“They worked so hard. They trusted each other. They’re all friends. And they just crushed the competition.”

Viera’s A Team, which consisted of Morgan Bentley, Mason Watts, Zack Chace, Maggie Zendehrouh and Zach Hafele, took seventh place in the competition.

The championship matchup was an all-Brevard County showdown between Viera and Eau Gallie

“My number one duty is to keep the kids safe,” he said. “I want to be a positive influence in the school. I want to catch things before they get out of hand. I want to take a proactive approach.”

Spencer said the hardest part of his job is keeping up with the social media outlets and vaping.

“I want to stop the foolishness that’s happening on social media,” he explained. “The bullying, posting a threat, that’s what I want to prevent. Everything is constantly changing. Kids are always one step ahead of you. I want to keep up with the technology and have a better grasp of what kids are doing with their phones.”

Spencer also said he’s held seminars on the dangers of vaping. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor that actually consists of fine particles.

Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer as well as respiratory and heart disease. “It’s a real problem,” he said. “Not just in Brevard County, but all across the U.S.”

When asked the difference between working at a private school compared to a public school, Spencer’s answer was quick and simple: “A private school is a smaller school but there is less red tape,” he said. “I can talk to the school president and dean and make a suggestion and it will get done. You can’t do that in a public school. Also, the kids here at Holy Trinity are more focused, and the school does a great job in preparing them for college.”

Spencer also said he approaches his job every day with thoughts about the events that happened on Feb. 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On that day, a gunman killed 17 students and staff members and injured 17 others.

“I try to do my part,” he said. “I make sure the cameras are working, the gates are locked, but more importantly I want to have that relationship with kids where they can trust me and touch base with those that know what’s happening in school.”

In addition to his SRO duties, Spencer coaches Holy Trinity’s junior high school basketball team. “Basketball gave me the avenue to work with kids,” he said. “I like being a coach, counselor and mentor.”

Spencer and his wife, Sandra, have three children, ages 20, 16 and 10. They reside in Melbourne.