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South Effingham Middle student Mateo Pena wins Spelling Bee
Mateo Pena, right, from South Effingham Middle School won the 2023 Effingham County School District Spelling Bee held Jan. 26 at the Effingham College and Career Academy. Sydney Whalen, left, from Ebenezer Middle School earned first runner-up.

Sixteen students from elementary and middle schools throughout the Effingham County School District participated last week in the annual system-wide Spelling Bee at the Effingham College and Career Academy. 

Elementary students competing included, Catherine Lee (Blandford Elementary School), Chloe Baker (Ebenezer Elementary School), Khloe LeBlanc (Guyton Elementary School), Lily Aultman (Marlow Elementary School), Chris Ward (Rincon Elementary School), Sophia Gallant (Sand Hill Elementary School), Tope Akinyokunbo (South Effingham Elementary School) and Braedon Smith (Springfield Elementary School). 

Participants from middle schools included, Paige Wilson, Jack Wohler and Sydney Whalen from Ebenezer Middle School; Ava Green, Siomara Baca and Benjamin Crofts from Effingham County Middle School; and Ryder English and Mateo Pena from South Effingham Middle School.

The 16 students who participated in the Effingham County School District Spelling Bee are shown above.

After several rounds and eliminations, including two vocabulary rounds, Pena from South Effingham Middle won the competition. Then, several additional spelling rounds were needed to identify the alternate speller from those who remained. Whalen from Ebenezer Middle took the alternate spot. 

Pena will represent the Effingham County School District at the Region Spelling Bee on Feb. 25.

Dr. Mimi Vaquer, from South Effingham High School was the official “pronouncer” for the event. Anna Barton, professional learning director, was the head judge.  Additional judges were Vanessa Denison, school improvement coordinator; and Diane Owens, mathematics coach from the curriculum department at the Effingham County Board of Education. 

Dr. Melodie Wall, curriculum coordinator, was the system Spelling Bee coordinator. Lisa Byrd, administrative assistant, served the Spelling Bee through preparation, registration, and program support.