Excitement teemed in the air as students and coaches from both primary and high schools from across Eleuthera descended on the Ministry of Education’s Resource Center facility in Savannah Sound for the 2023 Eleuthera District Spelling Bee.
Held this year under the theme, “Cultivating Competent Spellers, One Word At A Time”, the All-Island spelling competition saw students from fifteen schools take part – with 41 students contesting the top spots – the largest contingent in a number of years.
Eager spellers included: Ashton Rolle (10 yrs), and Trevor Forbes (10 yrs) from James’ Cistern primary; Breona Sineus (10 yrs), Eva Ajul (10 yrs), Aneya Thompson (9 yrs), and Cholaine Frederic (12 yrs – alternate speller) from Emma E. Cooper primary; Danetia Smith (10 yrs), Hallie Horton (12 yrs), and Knahla Mackey (12 yrs) from Rock Sound primary; Wes Underwood (13 yrs), Kye Higgs (11 yrs), and Aurora Knowles (10 yrs) from Samuel Guy Pinder all-age; Laila Goodman (11 yrs), Camren Carey (11 yrs), Trayvon Capron (10 yrs), and Taniya Rahming (10 yrs – alternate speller); Shannico Whitfield (12 yrs), Jashayla Lewis (12 yrs) and Angel Joseph (11 yrs) from Harbour Island all-age; Eliana Green (9 yrs), Gabriel Fox (8 yrs), Jahneil Charlton (10 yrs), and Demari Mortimer (10 yrs – alternate speller) from Emily G. Petty primary; Syrai McHardy (11 yrs), Perry Sands (12 yrs), Azariah Moss (12 yrs) and Leah Joseph (12 yrs – alternate speller) from North Eleuthera high school; Alexia Miller (11 yrs), Alfrenique Bethel (10 yrs), and Trachon Brown (11 yrs) of Deep Creek primary; Almitra Rolle-Meeres (11 yrs), Aneillia Levy (12 yrs), and Eckward Ferguson (11 yrs) of Central Eleuthera High School; Xavier Ferguson (10 yrs), Joshua Gardiner (10 yrs), Harmonie McCardy (8 yrs), and Navaeh Johnson (11 yrs – alternate speller) from P. A. Gibson primary; Geneva Ellison (10 yrs), Hadassah Stubbs (13 yrs), and Joel Simmons Jr. (11 yrs) of Harbour Island Green School; Whitney Johnson (11 yrs), Mikyle Glico (10 yrs), and Leanna Johnson (11 yrs) from Laura L. Anderson primary; Quinton Carey (11 yrs), Jada Mackey (11 yrs), Zavion McCoy (11 yrs) and Frank Lafrance (12 yrs – alternate speller) from Preston H. Albury high.
2022 Eleuthera District Spelling Bee Champion, Sohan Bryan, from Central Eleuthera High School shared reflections on his experience, as he went on to represent the island in the National Spelling Bee during March of 2022. His presentation took the audience of parents and nervous spellers on his journey of preparation, competition, success, and experience at the nationals.
Mrs. Fontella Knowles, representing District Superintendent of Education (DSE) Mr. Michael Culmer, welcomed the young competitors to the event, congratulating coaches and parents on the efforts they had put in to assist each young competitor to have made it to the day of competition.
Each contestant was asked to introduce themselves, and to share their favourite ‘something’, which allowed them to calm their nerves, break the ice, and even produced a number of smiles all around, as the students revealed their depths of interests and character – including budding athletes, scientists, artists and more.
Round one began, and as each student faced the microphone, parents could be seen holding their breaths. As each speller successfully said their word, or halted in error – those breaths came out as a quiet smile and sigh of relief or as a supportive gesture for students returning to their seats in the audience.
Round one saw twelve (12) of the forty-one (41) young competitors misspell their words, and rejoin the audience. A brief break ensued, with judges reviewing two appeals – which were unsuccessful. Then round two was underway with the remaining twenty-nine (29) students. Another fifteen (15) students had retaken their seats within the audience by the end of round two – succumbing to words like, ‘incontrovertible’ and ‘prophetically’ – as the other fourteen (14) moved through to round three. Round three would see a loss of just two (2) students, along with a controversial appeal, claiming an incorrect pronounciation.
After a short break, spelling resumed and the audience witnessed several nail-biting rounds with few errors tabled. However, in round seven, in a domino-effect, all remaining spellers, but three, made it through. Third place finisher, Xavier Ferguson (10 yrs) of P.A. Gibson primary was taken out in round eight by the word ‘pedigree’.
This left Syrai McHardy (11 yrs) from North Eleuthera High School and Wes Underwood (13 yrs) from Samuel Guy Pinder All Age to battle it out for the top spot in the 2023 Eleuthera District Spelling Bee. Syrai and Wes went head to head for the next four rounds without errors. However, in the thirteenth, the word ‘mantra’, spelled incorrectly by Syrai opened the door for Wes to take home the Championship title. He went on to correctly spell ‘hangar’, and then his winning word ‘phonics’, to earn the title of 2023 Eleuthera District Spelling Bee Winner.
Wes, who has competed in multiple grade level spelling bees since he began primary school, and no stranger to the winner’s trophy, was excited to have finally won the coveted District Spelling Bee. He will now have the opportunity to represent the island of Eleuthera in the National Spelling Bee competition, slated to take place in March 2023.
The official panel of judges, who offered their service to help make the spelling competition possible, included: Chief Judge, Mrs. Sybil Forbes; Assistant Judges, Ms. Emily Petty and Mrs. Stella Randall; Pronouncer, Mrs. Althea Gibson-Roberts; Dictionary Consultant, Mrs. Levada Ingraham; and Scorekeeper/Time Keeper, Mrs. Natasha Wallace-Gibson. Each judge was presented with a gift basket at the end of the spelling bee as a token of appreciation for their voluntary, and for many of them – longstanding service.
Coaches, who spent many weeks practicing with their students in preparation for the competition, were also recognized, with each receiving a certificate acknowledging their effort and significance. They included, Ms. Adassa Pennerman of Emma E. Cooper primary; Mrs. Joyann Claridge and Ms. Keanna Harvey of Rock Sound primary; Mr. Bevil Clarke of Samuel Guy Pinder All Age; Mrs. Gabrielle Dorsette of Tarpum Bay primary; Mrs. A. Robinson of Harbour Island All Age; Ms. Carlin Dean of Emily G. Petty primary school; Ms. Sterling Johnson and Ms. Sharon Singh of North Eleuthera high; Ms. S. Alday of Deep Creek primary; Mrs. Parry Sands-Culmer and Ms. Doria Scavella of Central Eleuthera high; Ms. R. Edgecombe of P.A. Gibson primary; Mr. William Simmons of Harbour Island Green School; and Mrs. Sherina Saunders-Curry of Laura L. Anderson primary school.