Michael Atwell, an 8th grader at Good Hope-Country Day School on St. Croix and Priya Giyanani, an 8thgrader at Antilles School on St. Thomas, emerged as winners of the 2020 districtwide Spelling Bees held February 6 at John H. Woodson Jr. High School and Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School, respectively.
The annual spelling competitions bring together the districts’ top spellers from public, private and parochial schools to compete for a spot in the Territorial Spelling Bee, and the ultimate chance to represent the Virgin Islands at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland in May.
Atwell, who was the 2019 St. Croix District Bee champion and Territorial Spelling Bee winner, was announced as the 2020 St. Croix District Bee winner after mastering the word disproportionate in Round 9. Giyanani snagged the St. Thomas-St. John District’s 2020 Intermediate Spelling Bee’s top spot by correctly spelling deodorant in Round 14.
The top six spellers from each district will compete in the Territorial Spelling Bee on March 11 in St. Thomas. The top six from St. Croix are Atwell, Kalyn Blackwood, 6th grade, Ricardo Richards; Briana Cruz, 7th grade, John H. Woodson Jr. High; Jahnyah Greenidge, 6th grade, Juanita Gardine K-8 School; Caiden Rivera, 6th grade, St. Patrick’s Catholic School; and Carl Consulta, 5thgrade, Alfredo Andrews Elementary School. The St. Thomas-St. John top six are Giyanani; Diana Esprit, Sts. Peter & Paul School; Radz Daytic, Yvonne Milliner-Bowsky Elementary School; V’Marie Rochester, Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School; Daniel Nganga, St. Thomas Christian Academy; and Agnes Bellot, Wesleyan Academy.
St. Thomas-St. John District Intermediate Spelling Bee
This year, 15 students representing the district’s top spellers participated in the Intermediate Spelling Bee.
Students were peppered with a range of words such as furrow, vacancy, pamphlet, appetite, abundance, novelist, and more over the course 14 rounds.
At the end of Rounds 2 and 14, grievances over the announcer’s pronunciation of the words garnet, amino and Graham were filed, with coaches asserting the pronunciations contributed to students being eliminated from the competition. The grievances were dismissed in all cases.
Of her impressive win, Giyanani credited her success to being disciplined.
“I always prepare by studying the main list first,” she said. “Then, I studied the various languages and origins of these words because those clues help you to figure out a word you may not have heard before. I also studied lists outside of the school lists. I do enjoy reading. I read a lot and that helps to expose me to new words, as well.”
Giyanani’s coach, Sonya Swan, praised the student’s work ethic.
“A lot of the preparation really relied on Priya because she’s so dedicated to any task that comes before her,” she said. “Her willingness, dedication, and commitment, and her desire to be successful is always there…never failing. Today, she rose to the occasion and showed us what she’s made of. She won the district competition in 6th grade, in 2018, and she was able to leave with the win under her belt.”
Giyanani’s mother echoed Swan’s sentiments. “I always encourage her to try her best,” she said. “This year, she did this all on her own because I didn’t have time to help her, so this really is a testament to her hard work and dedication. I am so very proud of her.”
During his remarks, Superintendent Stefan Jurgen offered inspiring words to students and took the audience down memory lane with a game of Spelling Bee Trivia.
St. Thomas-St. John District English Language Arts Coordinator Kendra Vicars coordinated the District Bee. Along with the Daily News, other Bee sponsors included Hooman Pedram, BCB Middle School administrative team, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Beautiful Beginnings Bridal Gallery, Island Sweet Stuff, Soul Creations, WEHMO STAGIN, and Subway.
Bee participants in both districts were awarded a host of prizes, including books, dictionaries, thesauruses, and gift bags from various educational organizations. Top winners also received trophies and electronic items.