All of the Middle Township Middle School students filed into the Performance Arts Center to see 28 of their classmates seated in a row onstage. The students onstage were the winners of their Language Arts Literacy classes' spelling bees.

A week ago, the best competed against each other for the chance to represent the middle school at the South Jersey Regional Spelling and Vocabulary Bee at Galloway Township Middle School in Atlantic County on March 22.

The Middle School is participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The winner of the regional bee in Galloway will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete in the annual Bee.

"We're hoping to go to nationals, but we don't know," student social worker Tatyana Duffy said.

The participating students, who were from every grade level in the middle school - sixth through eighth - were given a study sheet of all the words provided by Scripps prior to the Bee. Officially, words, definitions and pronunciations come from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Students are read a word by the announcer, and the word is used in a sentence. The speller can then ask the announcer to repeat the word, to hear the word's definition or the word's origin.

When the speller is ready, he or she says the word, spell it, and then repeat the word. He or she can respell the word if desired before finally repeating the word a second time.

This is the first time the middle school is participating in Scripps. It was made possible by an anonymous donor who allowed the school to sign up for the bee late.

"It's very exciting. The kids are very excited," Connie Chabok, literacy teacher and instructional supervisor, said. "But they're also very nervous."

In Round 1, words such as "rug" and "icon" were spelled. By Round 4, words increased in difficulty, to ones akin to "princely" and "bebop." In Round 6, the word "shiatsu" was correctly spelled. This was the final word in Glenwood Elementary School's spelling bee, which took place two weeks ago.

Cherie Champion was at the bee supporting her son, Christopher. Champion said that her son was hit by a car when he was 5 years old, and doctors postulated that he would never learn past a 7-year-old's

ability.

"Obviously, they were wrong," Champion said. "The fact that he's here is incredible."

Although Christopher was eliminated in Round 5, his mother was thrilled to watch her son compete, saying that she is a "proud mother."

The Bee went to Round 13, where sixth grader Abbie Smith and eighth grader Zach Wyatt were left standing.

Zach was read the word "sapphire," which he spelled correctly, leaving him winner of the bee.

Smith took second place, while seventh grader Logan Thomas took third.

Wyatt said he was confident when "sapphire" was read - it was a word he had gone over before.

"I was confident, but I really didn't think I would win," Wyatt said. "There were a lot of smart people (in the bee)."

Wyatt said he was happy, albeit surprised, to win the bee.

Contact Devin Loring:

609-463-6713