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Fifth grader spells 'plateau' to win St. Helena spelling bee

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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.

ST. HELENA — The 5th Grade 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.

In the second round, 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, Wayne Armstrong, the announcer, 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.”

Missed words in the third and fourth rounds 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.

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 of the original 18 fifth-graders remained to 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.”

Elias Kelly from St. Helena Montessori School took the top prize — $150 — by spelling “plateau” correctly. Stephens, also from the Montessori School, and Clarke from St. Helena Elementary School shared second place.

Held last week, this was the St. Helena Junior Women’s Club’s 44th Annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee. It began in 1976 as part of the United States’ bicentennial celebration.

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.

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.”

The judges 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.

Armstrong, the announcer and the master of ceremonies, opened the bee by saying, “Spelling is really important.” Even with computers and spell checkers, he said, the need to spell words correctly is necessary because a computer cannot differentiate between words that sound the same but are spelled differently, like “there” and “their.”

“You are smarter than computers,” he said.

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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