Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – The 2017 Albemarle County Public Schools division-wide Spelling Bee will take place this Thursday, February 16, in Lane Auditorium in the school division’s central office building at 401 McIntire Road in Charlottesville. The competition will begin at 6:15 p.m., immediately following a written examination.

Members of the community will be able to live-stream the event at:

Since last fall, thousands of students in grades 3 through 8 have competed for the right to represent their school. A total of 23 students from 21 elementary and middle schools will be vying for the right to represent Albemarle County Public Schools in the regional competition next month as the county’s champion. Several runners-up also will be invited to participate.

Among those who will be on stage this week are two former champions: Kathryn Burr was a 2016 co-champion, and Grace Caramanis won the county’s 2015 Bee. Kathryn was the winner of Henley’s Spelling Bee this year; Grace will represent Walton as its 2017 champion. Also returning are three students who represented the school division in regional competition last year. They include Layla Bouber from Meriwether Lewis Elementary School; Renae George from Sutherland Middle School; and Margaret Paczkowski, who attends Jouett Middle School.

“Perhaps contrary to popular belief, the Spelling Bee is about much more academically than simply trying to memorize difficult words,” says Maureen Jensen, who, together with Alison Dwier-Selden, is coordinating this year’s event.

“In order to do well in this competition, students need to understand the origin of words, their history, their use in language, grammar, word derivation, definitions,” Ms. Dwier-Selden adds. “These skills are a foundation for lifelong learning—not just in school, but in life.”

David Larrick, a former Albemarle High School teacher will once again be the Pronouncer for the Bee, and judges will include the county’s Chief of Police Ron Lantz; Tamara Wilkerson, the Executive Director of the African-American Teaching Fellows; and Kelly Kroese, the media specialist for Monticello High School’s award-winning Learning Commons.

Students competing in the Bee on Thursday include:

Lila Gerow, Agnor-Hurt Elementary

Suna Erdim, Baker-Butler Elementary

Martin Muchai, Baker-Butler Elementary

Elizabeth Frysinger, Broadus Wood Elementary

Ayda Jones, Brownsville Elementary

Nina James, Burley Middle

Ingrid Flaherty, Cale Elementary

Ella Hughes, Crozet Elementary

Jolesse Buhendwa, Greer Elementary

Kathryn Burr, Henley Middle

Seungwoo Yoon, Hollymead Elementary

Divya Hande, Jouett Middle

Margaret Paczkowski, Jouett Middle

Layla Bouber, Meriwether Lewis Elementary

Jonah Klaff-Layman, Murray Elementary

Sophia Hill, Red Hill Elementary

Vincent Cirillo, Scottsville Elementary

Matthew Field, Stone-Robinson Elementary

Matthew Behm, Stony Point Elementary

Renae George, Sutherland Middle

Grace Caramanis, Walton Middle

Graham Holub, Woodbrook Elementary

Chrishanna Johnson, Yancey Elementary

The National Spelling Bee began in 1925 and of the 95 national winners since that time, two have been Virginia students. Daniel Greenblatt, from Leesburg, won the national title in 1984, and in 1992, Amanda Goad of Richmond was a national champion. More than 11 million students across the country participate in the Bee each year. The 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee will be held between May 28 and June 3 at National Harbor, Maryland.