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Second annual NWT Spelling Bee abuzz in Inuvik

Nine communities from across NWT send 19 students to competition

Hard work definitely paid off for Rowan McInnes.

Leading up to the 2024 NWT Spelling Bee, which was held May 15 in Inuvik, the Grade 11/12 winner practiced spelling words on a nightly basis.

"It feels amazing, honestly," he said. "I spent a couple weeks looking up stuff. This just proves that my memory's better than I think.

"The seventh grade words were the ones that scared me. All the words in my grade, I knew most of them and all the ones we got I knew how to spell every single one. So I was pretty chill except for going up to it, because I was sitting ther nervous for about two hours."

With the extra practice, McInnes was able to spell words on the spot such as escutcheon, egregious and mezzanine.

He was one of six students in the Grade 11/12 category to brave the stage. In total, 19 students from nine communities across the NWT participated in the spelling bee, 14 in person and five attending virtually, representing Inuvik, Paulatuk, Whati, Fort Liard, Behchoko, Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Good Hope and Yellowknife.

Stakes were high. First place in each age category came with a $1,000 purse. Second place was worth $500 and third place took home $250 for their spelling prowess.

Grade 9/10 winner Augustin Lacoursiere-Barthe said he was going to put his earnings in a savings account.

"It feels really good," he said. "I was stressed at first but now I'm happy to take it home.

"At first I wasn't too sure, but I pulled through."

To earn his prize, Lacoursiere-Barthe had to spell a tapestry of words, the pinnacle of difficulty being juxtaposition.

Though McInnes mused about putting the prize money towards a vacation, all three first-place winners noted they were banking their winnings, hoping to build on their success with other efforts.

"Save it. Invest," said Grade 7/8 winner Queen Ajibade. "It feels good. Towards the end they started to give me questions that I had to use my paper, so I was a bit worried. But I persevered."

Ajibade had a judicious cache of words to spell, the longest being barbiturate.

With school districts from across the territory participating, organizing the spelling bee took months of planning. Since September a team of five spanning education councils at the Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, South Slave, Yellowknife, Tlicho, and the Dehcho region have been organizing regional championships leading up to this territorial denouement.

Last year Fort Simpson hosted the territorial championship. It remains to be seen which school will host next year's spelling bee.

"It was incredible to see the students get up in front of complete strangers and do something that is vulnerable and difficult," said co-organizer Steve Dagar. "I was incredibly proud of everyone who participated."

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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