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'Spellbinding' performance at Sally Mauro

Dakota Spigarelli takes first place in the Sally Mauro Spelling Bee.
Second place finisher and 4th grade student Peyton Hocanson faces Sally Mauro school judges during the final minutes of the competition.

Sun Advocate reporter

Drama was high in the Sally Mauro Elementary Auditorium last Friday as Helper students attempted to disentangle the English language in the school's first spelling bee. During the school finals, a misjudged rule called the event's finish into question, eventually forcing the bee's last four contestants to replay the contest.

"Once we realized a mistake had been made, I took myself out of the equation," said Robyn Arambula, a first year teacher who brought the bee to Sally Mauro. "I had a child in the final four and I didn't think I should be involved in any decisions at that point."

According to Arambula, the mistake was made when the contest got down to four contestants and three of them misspelled their given word. At that point Dakota Spigarelli, who spelled his word right, should have been given a chance to spell a challenge word and win the bee.

"There are so many variables in the way a spelling bee can be ended," explained Arambula. "Because the three contestants before Dakota got their words wrong he should have been given the chance to take first place right then and he was not."

Instead, Spigarelli, Peyton Hocanson, Jordan West and Jade Shepherd all continued on with Shepherd becoming the eventual winner.

"WWhen it was over, there were still questions in our own minds," continued Arambula. "And a representative from the PTA caught an example which outlined our exact situation in the rules and we agreed something needed to be done. After having sixth grade instructor Paulie Vogrenic replace me on the bee committee, I called the four students who were left when the rule went wrong and brought them back to the gym. From there the group decided to have them start the bee over with the final four."

In the end, the bee's official finish had 6th grader Dakota Spigarelli in first place, 4th grade student Peyton Hocanson in second and 6th grader Jordan West in third. These three students will now move on to the district bee in February with the top three there moving on to regionals in Moab.

While Arambula chose to remove herself from the bee's final discussion, the fact that Sally Mauro had a spelling bee at all is largely due to her influence and work.

"This is my first year teaching, and when I started I asked Principal Ryan Maughan about a spelling bee because my daughter had placed at the district level a year before and I wanted her to have the chance to compete again," she explained. "He let me know that they didn't have a bee but quickly fixed that by paying for the school's registration for this year."

According to the new teacher, Maughan registered Sally Mauro with Scripps and then let Arambula know that the bee was to become her responsibility. As for Maughan, he was very impressed by the work Arambula put into the event and thanked her publicly for that work, he also was very impressed by the large amount of community support which the bee received during its first year.

"I would really like to thank Mrs. Arambula and all the businesses that helped us this year," he said. "I am always taken back by the amount of hard work and support our community is willing to put forward for our schools."

Following the school's registration, Arambula found out just what would go in to running even a school level spelling bee.

"Right after I found out about the registration, I printed off the 400 plus pages that Scripps makes available with their bee packet and started the ball rolling," quipped Arambula.

She reported that the students were very excited about the bee from the moment they found out it was coming to their school. More than 160 students originally participated at the school in the event which is conducted all over the nation. Class and grade level competitions eventually shaved the students from the 160 to nine which competed in the school final in front of an audience of parents and the entire school.

"I really had a great time," said Hocanson, who eventually took second place at the event. "I have been studying pretty hard for the past two weeks and this was a lot of fun."

More than fun, the events organizer points to the fact that these events can shape a student's attitude toward spelling for a lifetime.

"I'm not a super speller," concluded Arambula. "And maybe if someone had pushed spelling's importance and made it fun when I was a kid I would have put more effort into it. That is what these spelling bees about about, making spelling fun and competitive for the kids."

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