From its origination the spelling bee has always carried with it controversy; parents mouthing letters, students complaining that their words are more difficult, and the newly acquired “what does that say?”

For anybody who has not attended a spelling bee in the last six or so years the format has completely shifted. Who knew that the school systems could actually think of a better way to single out the best spellers besides placing them on stage with a spotlight in front of peers with only a microphone? 

Now, with the collaboration of an overhead projector, students are all given the same word and are told to write it. When everyone has finished they flip the projectors on and all who are incorrect sit down. The last one standing wins.

The new format took the traditional three hour spelling bee and melted it down to an hour.

District 91’s middle school contestants in qualified for Monday’s event by taking a standardized spelling test. The top scorers in each homeroom made it to the finals. All of the final winners received a $50 savings bond from the Forest Park National Bank.

The third graders stole the show, providing the best competition of the evening.

Unlike the other grades, these feisty kids battled it out the longest, never losing more than one student in each round. In fact, unlike their brethren who were usually done by the eighth word, the two third grade finalists made it all the way to the tenth”but not before some controversy.

The controversial word was “cursor.” The problem was that the competition now incorporates an elementary student’s handwriting: e’s look like a’s, k’s look like h’s, and u’s are a free-for-all.

In the eighth round with only two contestants remaining Justin Coleman of Grant-White Elementary School appeared to be the winner having spelled the word correctly but his handwriting made it difficult for the judges to decipher.

In the end, a “redo” was called for and Coleman stood strong prevailing with the word “energize.”

The fourth grade competition saw its contestants disappear when three students missed the third round word, “disappear.”

Deja Bailey of Field-Stevenson Elementary School was able to oust her remaining competition by spelling “bizarre” correctly.

In a bizarre twist the fifth grade competition ended abruptly when four out of five contestants misspelled the word “reins.”

The lone survivor was Kathleen Turek of Garfield Elementary.

Another one of the day’s winners proved that hard work does pay-off.

Sixth grade winner, Conner Hudson, attributed his success to his parents’ motivational skills.

“They would call me in from baseball to make me study,” he said. “It was tough but it helped a lot.”

Hudson felt fortunate to win, adding, “I thought I was out on the first word, I was surprised to win.”

Ashli Satterfield continued her reign as spelling “queen” bee when she captured her third consecutive crown.

Satterfield is a natural talent claiming, “I only went to once in Mrs. Cunningham’s class and looked up the words for 7th and 8th graders; that’s all the studying I did.”

Satterfield looks to her final year to go out as four time winner and remain the spelling master of her class.

Otis Williams came out the victor in an eighth grade competition that featured three contestants and four words. Amazingly, Williams admitted to only studying for five minutes just moments before the competition.