YONKERS, N.Y. -- What do the words "puny," "malignant" and "pathos," all have in common? They are the new favorite words of students at Enrico Fermi School for the Performing Arts.
The school, which provides bilingual education for students K-8, received Vocabulary.com's monthly championship award on Tuesday, June 17, after beating out 11,000 other schools nationwide in the site's vocabulary contests.
Vocabularly.com's website and app are adaptive gameplay-based vocabulary programs that teach words to students of all grades and skill levels.
Enrico Fermi scored 36 million points on the website, bringing them to the top of the leader boards for the month of May.
Georgia Scurletis, director of Curriculum Development at Vocabulary.com, said for a school to win the award, it must have strong faculty support and leadership to motivate students to learn the vocabulary and practice regularly.
"The teachers are definitely deserving of thanks," she said.
Stefanie Felidi of Yonkers, 26, is the sixth-grade teacher who started it all.
Felidi attended a training seminar where she learned about the website and how to use it in the classroom. She first implemented it in her classroom, then introduced it to the entire school grades four to eight.
"The most rewarding part of this experience was today," she said. "(It was) seeing how happy the kids were, seeing how they take pride in their school and their academics. This is a very difficult socioeconomic environment, and so it is a big deal for our students here."
Fermi's principal, Miriam Digneo, said vocabulary exercises were of utmost important as her students face the Common Core exams.
She said while her school is primarily attended by children who come from a high poverty, low income community, motivation is not scarce among her student body.
"Our children are constantly striving to achieve," she said.
She added that many of the children had to put extra effort into participating in the program, because many of them do not have computers at home, and need to utilize public libraries to use the Internet.
Digneo said the achievement gives the children an extra incentive to believe successful is reachable and doable.
Tawshiq Iqbal, a sixth-grader at Enrico Fermi who scored 2.5 million points for his school, said learning vocabulary helps him succeed at his standardized tests and academics.
"It really enriches your writing when you use good vocabulary," he said. "It gives it some pizzazz."