NEWFANE—Flush from last fall’s state spelling bee victory, the students at NewBrook Elementary School in Newfane are not resting on their laurels.
For the second straight year, sixth-grader William Jagiello, 12, of Williamsville, went to St. Michael’s College in Colchester on March 16 to compete at the state level in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
In finishing sixth in the competition, the tall, alert, and pleasantly self-confident Jagiello surpassed the high goal he had set for himself this year.
“I was done for the past two years in the second round,” Jagiello explained, “and my goal was to get past that.”
And he succeeded, exponentially.
Forty-four students from as many Vermont schools showed up this year, mainly from grades 5-8, although a few from the lower grades had qualified.
By round 12, just six spellers out of the 44 were left, and among them was Jagiello. All six spelled all words correctly for six more rounds.
“Each person gets a different word,” Jagiello said, noting that some of the words were proper names, such as “Tuckahoe” and “Bolshevik.”
“I got one that was that was a flower name, but I can’t remember it,” he said.
In the 18th round Jagiello was given “alcazar,” a word of Spanish derivation that means “fortress” or “palace.” He spelled the last syllable with an “e” and was then eliminated.
“I felt bad,” Jagiello said, “but I’m definitely entering next year.” He’ll be a seventh-grader at Leland & Gray for that contest.
This year’s contest continued until Meigan Clark, a sixth grader from Middlebury, wrapped it up in the 31st round. Clark will represent Vermont in the the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. at the end of May.
Jagiello was also part of the NewBrook team that won the state spelling bee last fall. He was again chosen by elimination for this year, said Joyce VanPamelen, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher who is a veteran of more than 20 spelling bee competitions.
VanPamelen has high regard for Jagiello and warned Leland & Gray “to be prepared to offer him a challenge.”
The NewBrook team will continue to build on its record of excellence on March 25, when 27 students from the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades will compete at the school in the Montreal Fund Raiser Spelling Bee.
These volunteer spellers, divided into seven teams of three students and one adult, will show off their orthographic stuff for family and friends to raise money for the school’s traditional sixth-grade trip to Montreal.
The March 25 fund-raiser guarantees enthusiasm and cash from families and friends in the audience, and more than 20 local sponsors. Last year, the bee raised about $3,000, more than double from the year before, and a good chunk toward the $13,000 it takes for the sixth-grade Canadian adventure.
This year’s event will be the third Montreal competition bee. Some of the competing students are veterans, and some are new to the competition. Each team also has a student coach.
Every competitor gets a 15-page list of about 600 words of French origin, VanPamelen said, with study tips for each grade, such as “focus on words with two vowels” for fourth graders, with the number of vowels increasing for the higher grades.
Team adults are advised to be prepared for all the words and to “be sure you know what the words mean.”
A selection of words that might be challenging to spell or define includes “verdigris,” the green patina on copper; “bouillabaisse,” a French fish soup; and “caducity,” a kind of incapacity used most often in connection with advancing years.
Anyone interested in contributing to or attending the March 25 Montreal Fund Raiser may call NewBrook for further information at 802-365-7536. The competition is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the school.