ST. THOMAS, USVI – Following twenty-four action-packed rounds, Yvonne Milliner Bowsky Elementary School third-grader Cairo Leonard claimed the championship title with the correct spelling of “llama” at the St. Thomas – St. John (STTJ) District Primary Spelling Bee on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 in the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School Auditorium. Third-graders Amirah Hector of Tutu Church of God Academy and A’Shara Liburd of Calvary Christian Academy took second and third place, respectively.
STTJ Acting Deputy Superintendent Desha Powell opened the annual spelling event by praising the efforts of students, parents, coaches, and DOE staff for their respective roles in preparing for the successful event.
Acting STTJ Deputy Superintendent, Desha Powell gives words of encouragement to Spelling Bee participants
“You have the courage, confidence, and competitive spirit that has allowed you to challenge yourself, and your fellow participants and become a champion speller at your school. This is only the beginning of your success,” said Ms. Powell, encouragingly.
Addelita Cancryn Junior High School student Nashel Nunez sang the Star-Spangled Banner and the Black National Anthem. Luben Daniel, CAHS Music Department Chairman, then performed the Virgin Islands March on Clarinet.
Mr. Daniel offered words of encouragement to the spellers while reflecting on his experience winning the 1999 STTJ District Primary Spelling Bee.
1999 STTJ District Primary Spelling Bee Winner, Luben Daniels inspires Spelling Bee participants
“You may be excited, nervous, or even a little bit scared or happy, but one of the emotions you should feel is pride. You are presenting yourself as a champion speller for your school. It is a feat that not many accomplish, and you worked hard for it,” shared Mr. Daniel as he wished the spellers good luck.
Following brief self-introductions by the spellers and the Reading of the Rules, the competition began.
More than half of the 20 competitors were eliminated within the first five rounds as the words escalated in intensity to include words such as “surprise,” “parallel,” “schedule,” and “ratio.”
Liburd misspelled “terrace,” leaving Hector and Leonard to battle for the championship. Hector and Leonard battled for 12 more rounds before Hector incorrectly spelled “quotient,” allowing Leonard to secure the title with the word “llama.”
Cairo Leonards spells his championship word "llama"
Cairo Leonard along-side Parents and Coach
Sophia Neille, Cairo’s coach and English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher was proud of Leonard’s success during the competition. “We practiced words for 20 minutes daily during his lunch breaks. Cairo is very talented and would quickly pick up new words from various subjects. His parents were also very involved, and parental involvement really makes a world of difference in helping our students to be successful,” explained Ms. Neille.
All Spelling Bee participants received personalized dictionaries, trophies, and certificates compliments of the STTJ District. The top six spellers also received word puzzle books and board games.
Although there is no territorial competition, Primary Spelling Bee and Elementary Programs Coordinator Kalamis Maduro sees the competition as preparation for the intermediate Bee. “I think the Primary Bee is a big boost of confidence in our students,” started Maduro. “Besides, it’s a big push on vocabulary, and that’s the goal of the spelling bee, to promote literacy—with a side of friendly competition.
Left to Right (Ze'Yah Francis, Amirah Hector, Cairo Leonard, Yaliya Felix, Kai-Lan Leatham, and A'Shara Liburd)
The top six finalists from the St. Thomas – St. John District are Cairo Leonard of Yvonne Milliner Bowsky Elementary School; Amirah Hector of Tutu Church of God Academy; A’Shara Liburd of St. Thomas Calvary Christian Academy; Ze’Yah Francis of Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School; Kai-Lan Leatham of Ulla F. Muller Elementary School; and Yaliya Felix of Joseph Sibilly Elementary School.
Spelling Bee Participants
Speller #1 - Soraya Smith
School - Wesleyan Academy
Coach - Agnes Bellot
Speller #2 - Kinsley Taylor
School - U.S. Virign Islands Homeschoolers
Coach - Macy Taylor
Speller #3 - Yaliya Felix
School - Joseph Sibilly Elementary School
Coach - Eslyn Green-Gibbons
Speller #4 - Ja'Hai Jackson
School - Julius E. Sprauve School
Coach - Lucile Parsons
Speller #5 - Makenley Castel
School - Joseph Gomez Elementary School
Coach - Myra Penn-Gumbs
Speller #6 - J'aime Smith
School - New Testament Academy
Coach - Monica Harrigan
Speller #7 - Amirah Hector
School - Tutu Church of God Academy
Coach - Kethlyn Nation
Speller #8 - Ce'Dre Roberts
School - All Saints Cathedral School
Coach - Lisa Evans
Speller #9 - Christopher Morris
School - Antilles School
Coach - Rebecca Rodriguez
Speller #10 - Kedante Harris
School - Moravian School
Coach - Patricia Webster-Gumbs
Speller #11 - Jermel Sealy
School - Lockhart Elementary School
Coach - Jewel Williams
Speller #12 - Kai-Lan Leatham
School - Ulla F. Muller Elementary School
Coach - Eloise Stephen
Speller #13 - Cairo Leonard
School - Yvonne Milliner Bowsky Elementary School
Coach - Sophia Neille
Speller #14 - Jayson Richards
School - Gifft Hill School
Coach - Makenna Palmer
Speller #15 - Da'Mouri Jarvis-James
School - Faith Alive Christian Academy
Coach - Danika Brown
Speller #16 - A'Shara Liburd
School - St. Thomas Calvary Christian Academy
Coach - Austina Earle
Speller #17 - Caiya Leonard
School - Bethel Baptist Day School
Coach - Joycelyn Thomas
Speller #18 - Francis Matos
School - Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School
Coach - Tishma Lans
Speller #19 - Ze'Yah Francis
School - Jane E. Tuitt Primary School
Coach - Debra Sharpe
Speller #20 - Olivel Martinez
School - St. John Christian Academy
Coach - Elizabeth Nelson