Eighth Grader Wins Spelling Bee


Mr. Crisafi

Spelling bee winner Shay Patel stands next to Head of School Mr. David Faus and runner up Alexa Tobias after the competition on January 31.

By spelling “justaucorps,” which means a fitted, knee-length coat worn by men in the 17th and 18th centuries, eighth grader Shay Patel earned his just desserts, winning the 2021-22 Benjamin Middle School Spelling Bee on Monday, January 31. 

“The words were easy in the beginning, but got harder later on; they were well balanced though,” said Patel, a first-time spelling bee champion.

The first place and runner-up trophies frame Patel as he spells a word during one of the final rounds. (Mr. Crisafi)

Patel outlasted 35 other contestants who qualified for the bee by placing either first or second in their English class bees the week before. Sixth grader Alexa Tobias came in second, surprising even herself.

“I feel proud;I didn’t think I was gonna make it that far, and I believe I did very well,” she said.

For the second straight year, the bee was held in an empty BPAC (except for the contestants and judges) due to the pandemic. However, the competition was live streamed to middle school classrooms and parents.

Having no audience was no matter for Patel, though. “It didn’t feel as awkward with no audience, and it helped me concentrate,” he said.

Unlike last year, there were no online contestants joining from home.The event was not without some hiccoughs, however. Towards the end of the bee, the camera lost power, interrupting the stream. In the BPAC, the judges paused the bee, resuming it only when the broadcast was up and running a few minutes later. 

Even with the minor technical glitch, the students still had a blast watching from the classrooms as the spellers went head to head and word for word in the BPAC.

“It felt good that the school could keep the spelling bee going even though it was virtual, but it would have felt better in person because you get to see your friends on the stage and cheer for them in person,” said eighth grader Ishe Makoni.

Once again, the bee’s pronouncer was English Department Chair Mrs. Kathleen Devine, and the judges were sixth-grade English teacher Mrs. Denise Ponchock and seventh-grade English teacher Mr. Nathan Ginnetty. 

“I was glad that we were able to host the bee in the BPAC this year,” said Ginnetty. “It’s great to use on-campus spaces again, [and] it’s a bit more lively to have all the parties in person.”

For Patel, he will now have a chance to qualify for the regional bee in March, which will be virtual, by taking an online spelling and comprehension test prior to February 14. He is determined to do his best to qualify.

“I am going to go over the list a lot more than I did for the school bee, to give myself a better shot at winning,” said Patel.