The top spellers representing multiple states and countries competed for top honor Friday morning in the inaugural District-Level Spelling Bee, conducted via teleconference at Fort Stewart’s Diamond Elementary School.
When the smoke cleared, sixth-grader Xavier Richardson of Bolden Elementary/Middle School in Laurel Bay, S.C., won when he correctly spelled “facetious” after Joshua Bones of Diamond Elementary misspelled it.
Richardson then correctly spelled “hierarchy” to confirm his victory.
Other students participating on Fort Stewart included: Samantha Rosario, Brittin Elementary School; and Austin Keller, Kessler Elementary School. Other students participating via teleconference in the spelling bee included: Gavin Alexander, Pinckney Elementary School, Fort Jackson, S.C.; and Patrick Campbell, W.T. Sampson Elementary School, GTMO, Cuba.
Dr. Samantha Ingram, superintendent for the South Carolina, Fort Stewart and Cuba Department of Defense Dependent School District, began the competition by welcoming students and parents.
She introduced the judging panel: Shelman Burton, DODDS; Brandi Cummings, WTOC news anchor; Col. Kevin Milton, U.S. Army Garrison Commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield; Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin, Stewart-Hunter Garrison command sergeant major; Ingram; and Gael Colye, DODDS.
Wendy Randle, principal for Bolden Elementary/Middle School, said that some luck was involved, but it mostly came down to studying and self-discipline.
“You definitely have to have a strong phonics base, good memory and discipline to study (to be a good speller),” Randle said. “Xavier is a phenomenal speller and reader, thanks to his reading specialists, Marcy Haught and Melissa Burch.”
Sonja Rodriguez, principal of W.T. Sampson at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, agreed with Randle as did other principals and reading coaches, who were spectators during the competition.
“Congratulations, boys and girls,” Ingram said prior to the awards presentation. “You are all winners because you made it to the district spelling bee. Because this is the first year of our district competition, we knew there would be challenges, but everything has been great.”
Milton and Ervin gave each local participant a high-five, and then stood by the flat-screen monitor high on the wall to give a high-five to the teleconference competitors.