MOULTRIE – The audience held their breath as Williams Middle School student Shayla Giang spelled “complementary” to win the 2024 Colquitt County Schools Spelling Bee.
This year’s spelling bee was held Friday at Southern Regional Technical College with a total of 13 students, representing all of the elementary schools, the middle school, the junior high school and the G.E.A.R. Center.
Brenda Arnold, the spelling bee coordinator for many years, presided over the event; Allen Edwards, director of curriculum of Colquitt County Schools, was the pronouncer; and the judges were Stacy Jones, E.L.L. teacher at Williams Middle School; Lisa Lawson, instructional coach at Williams Middle School; and Ian Smith, assistant principal of Williams Middle School.
Marni Kirkland, assistant superintendent of curriculum of Colquitt County Schools, told the audience in her opening remarks that the students’ brains immediately took them through an entire list of possibilities and rules of spelling when they’re given a word to spell.
“In their brain, they have mapped all that wonderfulness so that when they come up here, and we give them a word orally … we don’t have it on a card … they can’t just look at it. … They decode. They break it down very quickly and they do it sometimes with context of a sentence. Their work in their head has mapped out how to be a great speller.”
She asked the audience to think about the magic happening during the spelling bee with the students and the mapping that their brain had built over the very few years that they’ve been on earth.
“The science of spelling is actually the end result of years of oral language with you at home, with us at the school, and their internalization of all those rules,” she said.
The 2024 Colquitt County Schools Spelling Bee started with a practice round, led by Edwards, where the students were not eliminated if they spelled the word that was given to them wrong. The kids introduced themselves and told what school they were representing before they spelled their word.
He teased the audience that after the kids were done with their competition, the adults in the audience would be coming up to spell some words, which drew laughter.
“Anybody up for that? No? It is terrifying for these kids to be up here trying to perform this in front of you,” Edwards said and encouraged the audience to send out love and good wishes to them because they were very nervous.
After the practice round, the spellers went two rounds, which cut the competition to half of the spellers. The words given by Edwards ranged from “brick” and “trove” to “puckish” and “biscuit.”
The third round was a vocabulary round where the students demonstrated their knowledge of what the definition of a word given to them was. They were given a choice of two answers to pick from.
Ironically, during round four, “vocabulary” was one of the words a student was asked to spell and he spelled it with no problem. “Jankers” was a word that most of the audience seemed to raise their eyebrows at when it was given to a student. It drew some laughs when the student asked for the definition and asked if he could “please say it loud, again”. She spelled the word correctly and Edwards asked the audience, “Now, how many of y’all could’ve spelled that one.”
After round five, the spelling bee was down to the final two competitors, Giang and Johnny Marshall, who represented Doerun Elementary School. After Marshall misspelled his word, Giang was given a new word to spell and then had to spell one more word, “complementary,” for the win.