Our Opinion: Spelling bee winner, finalists reflect well on Wilson’s schools

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Fifty-four middle school students stepped up to the microphone and put their knowledge to the test at the 32nd annual Wilson County Spelling Bee at Barton College’s Hardy Alumni Hall this week.

After seven rounds and 145 words, just one speller remained.

Speight Middle School eighth grader Jasmine Bagley won the competition and will represent Wilson County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee scheduled from May 24-29. We congratulate our local champion and we know she’ll make Wilson proud on the national stage.

Second-place finisher Landen Currie of Springfield Middle School also earned recognition, along with the five students who tied for third place: Brandon Batts and Shaurya Bhatt of Forest Hills Middle; Adaa Aggarwal of Elm City Middle; Valeria Moriano of the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education; and Samuel Duff, who is home-schooled. We congratulate the winner and finalists and thank the spelling bee’s sponsors, Affordable Hearing Aid Center, Billy Webb Heating & Cooling, Cox Auto Salvage, Education Exchange, Granitops, Jay W. Electric, Moore’s Body Shop, Pelican’s Snoballs, PLT Concrete Services, The Candy Man and the Wilson Tobs.

The Wilson Times is the spelling bee’s presenting sponsor, continuing a long tradition of newspaper support for education and literacy. Barton College provided the use of its facilities as an in-kind contribution.

Rebecca Godwin, an English professor at Barton, served as pronouncer and Timothy Wright, president of Wilson Community College, reprised his role as the spelling bee’s chief judge. Joining him at the judges’ table were Robin Williams, Wilson Education Partnership executive director, and Corey Friedman, editor of the Times. Lizzy Clapsadl of First Citizens Bank was chief recorder and Debbie Boykin, chief financial officer for the Times, also served as a recorder.

The Wilson County Spelling Bee brings students from our community’s public, private, charter and home schools together to compete for top honors. With the Scripps National Spelling Bee providing word lists and rules, the local spell-off provides a level playing field and a unique opportunity to the competitors, who won and placed in school-level spelling bees to reach the regional event.

With the rise of spellcheck in word processing programs and autocorrect and predictive text features on smartphones, fewer people are practicing their spelling skills today than in previous generations. That’s unfortunate, as reliance on technology can only get you so far. Spellcheck and autocorrect may substitute a misspelled word with a word the writer didn’t intend to use.

Spelling bee participants don’t just memorize long lists of words by sight. They also study pronunciations and definitions, expanding their vocabulary and learning terms and concepts that will make them better readers, writers and speakers.

“Spelling is an essential component to literacy, and reading and writing skills can take you anywhere — to the college of your choice, to a successful career, to a leadership position in your community and even to the halls of Congress or the White House,” our editor told students at Tuesday’s bee. “A good vocabulary allows you to share your ideas with precision and interpret others’ ideas. Those skills will open doors for you throughout your life.”

Judging by their hard work and worthy performances in the spelling bee, these Wilson County students have bright futures ahead of them. We thank them all for their efforts and wish Jasmine Bagley good luck as she prepares for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.