The top spellers from each elementary school in the Glendale Unified School District assembled Monday night, Feb. 6, for the 36th annual Elementary School District-wide Spelling Bee Finals. Twenty students, one for every elementary school in the district, displayed why they were chosen amongst all of their peers in front of a GUSD boardroom packed with family members and teachers.
“We are so proud of them, the top 20 spellers out of 30,000 students,” said Assistant Superintendent Katherine Thorossian before the spelling bee commenced.
“I know that each of them wished each other good luck. I’m sure most of them meant it,” Thorossian said to the audience, enticing laughter from the room.
The spelling bee began with each of the 20 spellers seated before the audience and the panel of four judges: Dr. Paula Nelson, Dr. Kelly King, Dr. Scott Anderle and Dr. Marine Avagyan, and the pronouncer Lise Sondergaard. The order of the spellers was determined randomly, as was the order of the words.
The talent on display was evident as the group of spellers withstood 19 rounds before whittling down to the final round. They sat before the audience in a semicircle of chairs, each approaching the microphone when summoned, some nervous and cautious with their answers, some rapid-fire and confident. A few spellers would be eliminated each round and then it became every couple of rounds as the determination of the remaining spellers held true. Eventually, the 20 students became two, after 142 spelling words.
It was time for the final round, the Spell Off, between Dunsmore sixth grader Nathan Venier and Mountain Avenue sixth grader Zerxes Bhadha. Both had showcased confidence throughout the initial rounds of the spelling bee, both in their spelling and in their ease and comfort in front of the audience. Venier had responded earlier to receiving the word “psychopath” by assuring the judges that, “I’m not one of those,” before spelling the word easily.
Bhadha, in a move that received similar applause and laughter, asked the judges, “Can you spell the word for me?” rather than ask for the definition.
But after a series of tough rounds, full of persistence and skill, the Spell Off ended fairly quickly. As opposed to the earlier rounds, a speller was not eliminated for just misspelling a word. Should someone misspell a word, the next speller would have a chance to spell that word correctly, then spell one additional word to win it all.
The first word was “abscess” and unfortunately for Venier, he could not get the spelling right.
Bhadha was then given a shot at the word and nailed it, before finishing the Spell Off with “sequence.”
The spellers all gathered before the audience then to a well deserved round of applause.