Students shine in townwide spelling bee

By Jennifer Holloway - ReminderNews
Enfield - posted Thu., Apr. 7, 2011
Eight fourth-grade students were left at the end of their timed spelling bee in Enfield. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
Eight fourth-grade students were left at the end of their timed spelling bee in Enfield. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

“Say the word, spell it, say the word again.” This is the mantra Bee Master Guy Bourassa stressed to students who participated in the town-wide spelling bee at JFK Middle School on April 4.

The annual event, presented by the Enfield Junior Women’s Club, hosted the first- and second-place winners from each of the town’s public and parochial schools’ competitions. Fourth-graders competed in a timed event, with eight students remaining at the end. Fifth- and sixth-graders spelled until one student was left.

That student was Maddy Rogers, a fifth-grader from Enfield Montessori School who also participated in last year’s bee.

“I did it in the fourth grade and got out on ‘handkerchief,’” she said. Rogers was back this year, after spending time practicing words at school and with her mom at home.

When Gabriel Concepcion, a sixth-grade student from Hazardville Memorial and the second-place winner, misspelled “surgeon,” Rogers spelled it correctly. She then spelled “heavier” to win the bee.

The fifth- and sixth-graders spelled words as varied as “card” and “protein” to “leprechaun” and “auricle,” for more than 90 minutes, before a winner was announced.

Earlier in the night, Bourassa, who is the seventh- and eighth-grade computer teacher at JFK Middle School, worked to establish a fun, respectful environment for the competition.

“The biggest reason I do this is because I could never be up here,” he announced to a laughing audience of families and friends.

Diane Maxellon, a member of the Enfield Junior Women’s Club for 28 years, said the club works the event around Bourassa’s schedule because he’s articulate and puts the kids at ease.

This was evident in his comical asides made throughout the night. When a fourth-grader spelled the word “comb” correctly, Bourassa commented, “You remembered the ‘b’ – good job.” When students misspelled words, he was reassuring and complimentary, saying things like, “I think this one would’ve gotten me, too.”

He also spoke directly to participants before starting, to ensure they understood some of the trickier rules.

Helping Bourassa listen for correct spellings were judges Brian Peruta, Jaime Macsata and Jason Jones.

“We’re the rules guys,” Peruta said. They gave the final ruling, when necessary, and kept a dictionary nearby for when questions arose.

At one point in the competition, the word “foul” was given, but the example sentence used the word in reference to a chicken. The student spelled the word “f-o-w-l.” Following the official rules and word list, Bourassa dismissed him to gasps from the crowd. The judges jumped into action, checking the dictionary and reinstating the student.

Rockville Bank, Barnes & Noble and Red Robin sponsored the spelling bee. Every student who participated in the bee received a certificate and goodie bag. The top two students received savings bonds from Rockville Bank – $100 for first place, $50 for second – a dictionary from Barnes & Noble and a gift card to Red Robin.

For taking first place, Rogers was also given a gift basket, and her name will be engraved on the event’s trophy. She and Concepcion will advance to the state spelling bee next month.

The Connecticut Junior Women’s Statewide Spelling Bee will take place May 14 at Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford.


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