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Fifth grader Elias Kelly wins St. Helena Junior Women's Club's event by spelling ‘plateau’ and ‘distinct’

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Spelling bee participants

The 17 fifth graders who participated in the St. Helena Junior Women's Club's 44th Annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee gathered on stage after the March 12 event ended. The students are from St. Helena Elementary School, Freedome School, Foothills Elementary School, St. Helena Montessori School, Howell Mountain Elementary School and Pope Valley Elementary School.

Fourteen words knocked out 16 fifth-graders on Tuesday, March 12, during the St. Helena Junior Women’s Club’s 44th Annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee.

Spelling the words “plateau” and “distinct” correctly and winning the spelling bee was Elias Kelly from St. Helena Montessori School. In second place were Parker Stephens, also from the Montessori School, and Juliana Clarke from St. Helena Elementary School.

Catherine Dann and Elias Kelly

Catherine Dann, president of the St. Helena Junior Women's Club, congratulates Elias Kelly on winning the club's 44th Annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee.

Kelly received $150 for winning the event and Women’s Club President Catherine Dann told him he should use it for school books. He probably will, because although he said he didn’t know how long he had studied to compete in the spelling bee, he said he reads a lot. His teacher is Katherine Carattini.

Both Stephens and Clarke said the hardest part of the competition was spelling the word “plateau,” although both had gone through six rounds before missing that word. Stephens said she studied for four months before the event and Clarke had studied for six months. She added the competition “was pretty hard for me today.”

Before the spelling bee started at 7 p.m., the 18 fifth graders sat on stage — some of the boys were in suit coats and ties and some of the girls were in dresses, while others wore slacks. In the audience were parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of the contestants as well as Junior Women’s Club members and others.

Winners of St. Helena Junior Women's Club 44th Annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee

Wayne Armstrong, master of ceremonies and announcer, Catherine Dann, president of the St. Helena Junior Women's Club, center, and teacher Katherine Carattini, gathered with the first and second place winners of the club's annual spelling bee for fifth graders. The students are, from left, Juliana Clarke and Parker Stephens, who tied for second place and Elias Kelly, who won the March 12 event.

Dann introduced the judges, who were Susan Swan, St. Helena High School librarian; Maureen Kelly from St. Helena Co-operative Nursery School; and Leslie Stanton, the children’s librarian at St. Helena Public Library. Dann also welcomed the single student from Freedome School, Huck Anderson, since it was the first time Freedome School had participated in the spelling bee. The St. Helena Junior Women’s Club started the spelling bee in 1976 as part of the United States’ bicentennial celebration.

Wayne Armstrong was the announcer and the master of ceremonies. Before he started announcing the words and using them in sentences, he said, “Spelling is really important” and words spelled correctly are needed to communicate, especially in writing. Even with computers and spell checkers, the need to spell words correctly is necessary, because, Armstrong said, a computer cannot differentiate between words that sound the same but are spelled differently, like “there” and “their.” He told the students, “You are smarter than computers.”

First, simple words

The spelling bee started with simple words – Alice Baxter spelled “wish” as the first word and Annette Glynn spelled “said” correctly as the second word. After each response, the audience clapped. All of the students made it through the first round.

Alexa Barragan Ramirez

St. Helena Elementary School student Alexa Barragan Ramirez spells a word during an early round of the St. Helena Junior Women's Club's 44th Annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee. It was held Tuesday, March 12 at SHES.

In the second, which featured longer words, “pencil” was misspelled and although one boy had a hard time with “desert,” he showed visible signs of relief after spelling it correctly.

As each contestant stood at the microphone, Armstrong would say the word, use it in the sentence and say it again, for example: “Clown, I want to be a clown for Halloween. Clown.” The fifth-grader spelled the word correctly and the third and fourth rounds continued. Missed words included “pillow” and “fourth,” although “champion” proved to be no problem. One of the girls was asked to spell “hospital” and she paused and struggled to do so. Once Armstrong told her the word had been spelled correctly, the audience clapped and cheered for her.

During the competition, several of the fifth-graders struggled to correctly spell a word, starting, then stopping, asking to start to spell the word again and finally spelling the word correctly … much to their relief and the audience’s joy.

At the end of the fourth round, three contestants missed “raisin,” and another two missed “anxious.” Forty minutes had passed.

In the fifth round, the seven remaining fifth-graders correctly spelled “prompt” and “attempt,” but two of them missed “chorus.” The sixth round began with five students, one of whom missed the word “several.” In the last round, one of the four students left, misspelling “pierce,” and two, Juliana Clarke and Parker Stephens misspelled “plateau.” They were knocked out of contention when Kelly spelled the word correctly.

Those competing in the spelling bee were:

  • St. Helena Elementary School: Dominic L. Bastos-Amaro, Alice Baxter, Juliana Clarke, America Garcia, Larsen Moura, Alexa Barragan Ramirez, Jocelyne Camila Tolteca-Clavel and Robert (Bobby) White
  • Freedome School: Huck Anderson
  • St. Helena Montessori School: Connor Cleland, Allison Foster, Annette Glynn, Elias Kelly, Parker Stephens
  • Howell Mountain Elementary School: Bayleigh Redding, Jaxon Gardner
  • Pope Valley Elementary School: Isabella Mendoza.

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st

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