Each year, students from both Pierceton and South Whitley Elementary Schools participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. According to Scripps’ website, the spelling bee is “one of the nation's oldest and most iconic competitions,” moreover, it is “a tradition 90 years in the making.” The purpose of the spelling bee “is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.”
Inside of SWE, on December 6th, the competition began with 45 spellers! After a full hour, according to Whitko’s Anne Leezer, who supplied photos for the school’s social media, the Bulldogs were able to congratulate Cliff Hawkins as the 2018 SWE Spelling Bee Champion. Congratulations were also in order for runner up, Ciera Leughmyer, while Keeli Dennis took 3rd place. As is their tradition, the spelling bee was announced by Principal Bryan Emmert. Gina Vardaman, Laura Thong-Umphai, and Peg Dyer served on a panel of judges throughout the competition. This year the competition was hosted in the SWE cafeteria.
Over at Pierceton Elementary, the official competition had begun earlier in the week, and from those competitions a top 24 were brought to finish the bee on Wednesday, December 13th. The competition would last for a full 20 rounds! PES posted a live video of the event on their Facebook page once they had reached the final four students in the spelling bee. Cale Bennett, who was the 2017 winner for PES rose to the top again in 2018 with back to back victories. This year, Bennett won the competition by spelling the word “salutation.” In response to the applause from those watching he offered a reserved fist pump of excitement, but he still had to enter the championship round. The championship round affirms the victory by requiring the last competitor to successful spell one final word. For Bennett, that word was “gondolier.” The runner up at PES was 5th grade student, Taylor Long. Long will have another opportunity to compete again in 2019 against her peers at PES. Principal Mike McClain served as announcer while Tasha Kinney, Bill Rhodes, and Emily Whiteleather sat on the judges panel.
The winning students from both schools will now progress to the next level of the Spelling Bee. Winners will compete at the county level. Because PES and SWE are located in separate counties, there is little chance Hawkins and Bennett will have an opportunity to spell against one another unless they both successfully win their respective tournaments. Leughmyer and Taylor will have the honor of replacing their school’s champions if for some reason Hawkins and Bennett are unable or unwilling to compete.