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GPS elementary and junior high students compete in District Spelling Bee

Gold celebrating the best of GPS!

Eight finalists from the GPS Spelling Bee pose with their trophies onstage at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, Arizona.


Rows of chairs line the stage inside the auditorium of Campo Verde High School, and hanging right above them a bright yellow banner with black text that reads, “Gilbert Public Schools Spelling Bee.” Every year GPS students, staff, and families look forward to this event.

“I love the idea of an academic competition. I love the tradition of a spelling bee,” said Kelly Morgan, the event organizer and the Media Specialist at Gilbert Elementary.

This was Morgan’s 26th year planning the competition. Spelling bees have been part of her life since a very young age. She actually won her sixth grade spelling bee, and she says the victory is one of those childhood moments that left an imprint on her life.

“I got a really awesome dictionary that I still have to this day with my name on it,” she said.

For this year’s competitors, they will likely remember their own experience for years to come. Every GPS elementary school and junior high school had a student represented at the spelling bee. Those students spent weeks learning new words, studying, and preparing for their big moment onstage. 

“It sometimes gives kids who don’t necessarily shine in certain areas, a place to shine. Whenever we can place a spotlight on students, I really love that,” Morgan said.

Students who participated at the district level had to first win their classroom and school spelling bees. They learned to spell more than 1,000 words from the 2022 Words of the Champions list. They were so prepared that the District Spelling Bee this year went for 27 rounds, ultimately forcing the judges to choose words that weren’t part of the original study guide. 

“It can be exciting, especially toward the end,” said Morgan.

The winning word this year was “defray.” Eight finalists will now head to the Region 6 Spelling Bee on February 8 at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. Two winners from that event will go to the state level in March, and the winner will compete in June at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland.

All participants in the Gilbert Public Schools Spelling Bee received participation ribbons and certificates. The eight finalists received trophies and gift cards. The prizes were donated by the Assistance League of East Valley.

Congratulations to the winners, and a special thank you to our judges!

District Spelling Bee Finalists:

Sean-Fei Ng, Augusta Ranch Elementary

Sifarth Rahaman, South Valley Junior High School

Arian Rivera-Torres, Playa Del Rey Elementary 

Kate Mierzejewski, Quartz Hill Elementary 

Elle Draves, Greenfield Elementary

Addi Anaya, Mesquite Junior High School

Ava Gasparro, Meridian Elementary 

Mason Smith, Neely Traditional Academy 

District Spelling Bee Judges:

Bonnie Hickman, Patterson Elementary

Frank Caporaletti, Carol Rae Ranch Elementary 

Julene Wilcock, Finley Farms Elementary

Marilee Garbison, Canyon Rim Elementary 

Polly Vogt, South Valley Junior High School


Written by Kailey Latham