Eight middle-schoolers made history last week when they all won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after the judges ran out of words to ask them to spell. There had never been more than two spellers sharing the top honor before.

Williams/Ledger Elementary second graders are already preparing to take their place and win the $50,000 cash prize when they reach middle school in three short years.

The school hosted a spelling bee for the fourth consecutive year with first and second graders vying for the top three spots. The event originated from the after-school spelling club sponsored by second grade teachers Darleen Lucas and Crystal Chaco after the teachers noticed how students were using spell check on the computers rather than learning how to spell basic words.

Principal Marla Sullivan said the spelling bee is the culminating event for the spellers resulting in 21 contestants in this year’s school-wide contest.

“It is a great way for our younger students to experience preparation for and participation in a competitive event,” Sullivan said. “It also provides our older students an opportunity to be a supportive audience for their younger peers. It is always fun as the competition gets down to the final few students. You can feel the tension as the words get more difficult and the relief when the word is spelled correctly.”

All of the competitors receive medals rewarding their courage to speak publicly on stage in front of their peers and also risk misspelling a word and losing in a public setting. The top three winners receive trophies. This year’s first place winner was Siene Paulo.

“I’m so excited,” Paulo said with a grin. “My parents are excited and proud too.”

Second place winner was Kameron Briscoe and Ethan Dean captured third place. The top three were all second grade students.

“This year, the winner had an older brother in fourth grade. He was so proud to come up to the stage to hug her and congratulate her on the win,” Sullivan said.

Students began practicing in early October and continued throughout the year until the big event at the end of the school year.

“I would love to see this event expand to something district wide, perhaps aiming for an April time frame since May is so busy with state testing,” Sullivan said. “It could be held at Lea Ledger Auditorium or a junior high cafeteria and perhaps be limited to second grade participants. It would be something special for them before they make the leap to STAAR (testing) grades.”

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