Shelton school spelling bee brings excitement and ‘pressure’

It was fitting that “pressure” was the word Andrew Lam spelled correctly to win the third annual spelling bee April 8 at Perry Hill School.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking,” a smiling Andrew said after his win. “I was kind of surprised.”

Andrew, a sixth grader, was one of 24 Perry Hill students who took part in the event sponsored by the Shelton Education Endowment Fund (SEEF).

The competing students were winners of color team spelling bees that took place in March, and the color teams — blue, green, orange, purple, red, and yellow — were the winners of previous classroom spelling bees.

The runner-up in the final competition was Ashley Jacob, a fifth grader who had also come in second in the color team final. She wasn’t sure how she’d place in the spelling bee finals. “I was wondering if I could win,” Ashley said.

The students went for several complete rounds, spelling such words as “paragraph,” “vaccinate” and “adolescent” without a mistake.

Parents, siblings, school staff, and Board of Education members applauded when difficult words were spelled correctly, and there were sympathetic sighs when, one by one, students eventually faltered on such words as “perjury,” “panorama” and “ascertain.”

‘Healthy competition’

“The spelling bee allows [students] to compete in a supportive environment,” said Lorraine Williams, principal of Perry Hill, the citywide school for fifth and sixth graders.

“It allows them to engage in healthy competition,” Williams said in her welcoming remarks after young musicians from the school performed patriotic music. “We’re very proud of our 24 spellers here.”

The event helps students excel in reading and writing, she said, and their confidence levels are boosted.

Students who misspelled words left their seats on stage and were given gift certificates as they went to join their families.

Excitement grew as the last three students — Andrew, Ashley and Joshua Mallette — spelled “scientific,” “invisible” and other challenging words.

Then it was down to two students, and tension built as both Andrew and Ashley misspelled “tirade.” Several correctly spelled words followed, until Andrew spelled “pressure” to win.

Re-instated activity

SEEF committee member Sandy Mahony and volunteer Carla Sullivan presented the awards to the winners.

Williams credited Mahony for coming up with the idea of re-instating the spelling bee two years ago after a six-year hiatus. “It’s proven to be a very successful event,” Mahony said.

Standard Oil and Goodman Insurance employees, and retired educators, were major sponsors, and they also served as judges.

The event provides youngsters with “educational opportunities outside the classroom,” said Kathleen Riddle, the school district’s K-12 school counselor curriculum leader and a SEEF committee member.

The top five spelling bee winners received cash awards. Fifth place and $25 went to Rachel Dillon, fourth place and $25 to Jordan Prendergast, a $50 award went to Mallette, and Ashley won $75.

Andrew won $100, and the same amount went to Lynn Ibsen’s sixth grade classroom, Andrew’s homeroom.

In a 50/50 raffle, a winning family received $150, and $150 went to SEEF, a nonprofit fund of the Valley Community Foundation that aims to enhance educational opportunities and support student awards and scholarships, teacher innovation, career and college exploration, and parent-community engagement.

School Supt. Freeman Burr encouraged parents to donate to SEEF. “It’s a great organization,” Burr said.

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