Mattia Phaneuf is Spelling Bee champ
Mattia Phaneuf of Edgartown, a seventh-grader at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, won the Martha's Vineyard Spelling Bee Friday, and with it a trip to Washington D.C. in May to compete in the Scripps Howard National Bee.
This was Ms. Phaneuf's fifth spelling bee and her second competition in the Island-wide Spelling Bee. Her final word to spell was "uncouth." She said in an interview on Saturday that she wanted to spell the word with two "o's" because of its phonetic suggestion, but then she decided that its spelling could not be as easy as she first thought. Mattia added that she was nervous the whole time.
Seven competitors participated in the 15th Annual Vineyard Spelling Bee sponsored by The Martha's Vineyard Times at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown Friday morning. One by one each student, visibly tense, stepped to the podium and spelled his or her assigned word.
Charter School's Mattia Phaneuf is the Island Spelling Bee champion. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The runner-up was David Seidman of the Tisbury School, who was fooled by the word "foolocracy," and Cole Bilodeau of Oak Bluffs, stumped by "connote," finished third. Cole was also a contestant in last year's Bee. The other contestants were Raine Monast of West Tisbury, Ian Bardwell of the Chilmark School, Chris Pitt of the Edgartown School, and Kent Leonard, a home schooler from Vineyard Haven.
There were 52 words in all, including vaporize, precinct, mesa, alcove, intertidal, asterisk, porpoise, and plague. They were taken from the 2006 Paideia, the study guide from the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Peter Oberfest, publisher of The Times, served as pronouncer. Barbara Reynolds, Edgartown School reading specialist and English as a Second Language coordinator, was the organizer of this year's bee.
When Mattia returned to the Charter School later that morning the students and teachers greeted her with cheers. It was the first spelling bee win for the Charter School. Dawna Phaneuf said she was thrilled for her daughter's win, but also for the Charter School. "It gives the Charter School some well-deserved credit, because they have been so flexible to whatever any family wants or needs," she said, adding that Mattia's curriculum this year had assisted in her win.
Ms. Phaneuf said Mattia and her sister Chelsea spend most of their time reading. Their love of reading has propelled them through the West Tisbury library's young adult section. In addition, the girls have made high marks in the library's summer reading program.
Ebba Hierta, West Tisbury young adult librarian, said that each student must read six books and complete a short questionnaire on each. Mattia exceeded that minimum and read some 63 books last summer.
Mattia is at the top of Ms. Hierta's list of young adult book critics. If a book was interesting to Mattia, she is confident it will appeal to other young people.
As winner of the Vineyard Bee, one of Mattia's prizes is an Unabridged Webster's dictionary. It is the first dictionary of its size for the Phaneuf family.
But the big prize is an expenses paid trip for her and a chaperone to Bee Week in Washington D.C. for the 78th Annual Scripps Howard Spelling Bee. The prizes at the national competition will include a $12,000 cash prize from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The competition will be the weekend of May 31 and it will be Ms. Phaneuf's first time to Washington.
In addition to sponsoring the Bee, the Martha's Vineyard Times underwrites all costs, including the participation by the Vineyard winner in the National Bee in Washington D.C. in May.
Prizes for all the Vineyard participants were provided by The Times and by the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. The Harbor View donated the use of its facilities for the Island Bee.