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Top spellers compete Saturday
29 students to match wits, words
Chestatee Elementary School student Julia Vallier, winner of the 2012 Georgia Association of Educators Spelling Bee will be competing again this year. - photo by File photo

The following students are scheduled to participate in Forsyth County’s Georgia Association of Educators Spelling Bee on Saturday. Each won the bee at their individual schools.


• Big Creek — Abhinav Iyer

• Brookwood — Tyler Xu

• Chattahoochee — Tommy Craddock

• Chestatee — Julia Vallier

• Coal Mountain — Sammy Gore

• Cumming — Amy Anderson

• Daves Creek — Akshita Sharma

• Haw Creek — Ashriitha Shanmugam

• Johns Creek — Julia Chang

• Kelly Mill — Sujai Reddy

• Mashburn — Morgan Parsley

• Matt — Jacob Hiltzheimer

• Midway — Morell Kenmoe

• Sawnee — Brittany Caruso

• Settles Bridge — Cole Donovan

• Sharon — Jessica Terry

• Shiloh Point — Anup Bottu

• Silver City — Neha Dave

• Vickery Creek — Mahin Gonela

• Whitlow — Claire Deng


• Lakeside — Rachel Walter

• Liberty — Austin Holbrook

• Little Mill — Mitchell Welker

• North Forsyth — Logan Choflet

• Otwell — Caya Bennett

• Piney Grove — Arianne Duyvelaar

• Riverwatch — Sadhana Durbha

• South Forsyth — Holly Wilson

• Vickery Creek — Jake Wasserman

Source: Forsyth County Schools

Julia Vallier is ready to defend her crown Saturday.

The Chestatee Elementary School student won last year’s Georgia Association of Educators Spelling Bee as a fourth-grader and the youngest speller in a competition that lasted nine rounds.

Chestatee Principal Polly Tennies said Vallier’s been preparing all school year for the 2013 bee, which is set for 10 a.m. at North Forsyth High School’s performing arts auditorium.

“She’s been studying challenge words and she even has an app on her iPad that she’s been using,” Tennies said. “She’s very dedicated to the competition.

“We’re very proud of her and we can’t wait to see how well she does on Saturday, because I feel like she’s even more prepared than she was last year. She’s going to be a force.”

Vallier will try to hold off 28 fourth- through eighth-graders who won their respective school’s spelling bees.

Despite her victory last year, county bee organizer Judi Jenkins said Vallier’s not necessarily a shoe-in for the prize.

“The words are getting harder and the kids are getting smarter,” she said.

Jenkins said the top three finishers Saturday will advance to the District 2 competition Feb. 23 in Marietta, where they will face the top spellers from Cherokee, Cobb, Dawson, Lumpkin, Towns, Pickens, Union, White county schools, as well as the Marietta city system.

The winners there will attend the state bee March 15 at Georgia State University, with a chance to head to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

Tennies said she “would not be surprised” if Vallier were to advance that far. “She just has the dedication to it and I see that she’s going to be the name that’s bandied around for the next four years in spelling, because she’ll be competing at the middle school level as well.”

Jenkins would like to see a local student make it to the national bee, but is focusing on Saturday.

The bee’s caller will again be Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President James McCoy, who Jenkins said did a great job last year.

Judges also will be the same: Georgia Association of Educators representative Greg Orr; Linda Lang, a member of the Forsyth County Retired Educators Association; and John Hall, publisher of the Forsyth County News.

Every student has their own way of preparing for the bee, Jenkins said, and several also use a resource provide by Scripps.

“They give you access online to a bunch of words to study. Not that those are the words used, but they could be and some of them are really hard,” Jenkins said.

One trait all the system’s top spellers share is their passion for reading, according to Jenkins.

“Good spellers are the good readers,” she said. “Every time you talk to the mom of a county winner or a school winner, they say their kids read all the time.

“I think that’s the key to it. You can spell-check on the computer, but you can look back and find that good spellers are all good readers.”

In Vallier’s case, Tennies said, writing is also a factor.

“She’s an exceptional writer. So if you’re a fantastic speller, that’s a talent for sure, but [it’s great] to be able to take that as well and put it into other places,” Tennies said.

“Spelling is definitely a skill we want in the future. It may be old-fashioned, but it will never go out of style.”