Isabella Nilles

Isabella Nilles

Maroa-Forsyth Middle School, seventh grade, third place. 

DECATUR — The regional spelling bee is sure to be a nail-biter: Competitors, parents, well-wishers and organizers all know the stakes.

Twenty-two elementary and middle school students will be competing Saturday, March 16, at Eisenhower High School auditorium. They represent Bond, Christian, Clay, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Effingham, Fayette, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland and Shelby counties. The winner advances to the Scripps National Bee in Washington, D.C.

Bee coordinator Linda Smith, of the Macon-Piatt Regional Office of Education, which sponsors the regional bee, said the goal is to make the event as smooth as possible for everyone.

“I have the dream team, with judges and the pronouncer,” she said. “But I prepare everything.”

After 35 years, Smith will be retiring from the local spelling bees. She coordinates the Macon County bees, which include all public and parochial schools through eighth grade, as well as the regional bee. She also provides information to the students and families of the winners for each competition.

Organizing and preparing for the local bees takes several months, Smith said. Schools register for spelling bees through Scripps National Spelling Bee website. 

Bee organizers prepare the words and offer students and families resources to prepare for the moment competitors step to a microphone and test their knowledge.

Spellers across the nation have been competing in this event since 1925, and more than 11 million students will participate at all levels each year, according to Scripps.

Smith, who began assisting with the county bees in 1984, noted how much the bees have grown in the ensuing years and the satisfaction of watching the students do their best.

“It is very rewarding to see how they have advanced in spelling,” Smith said.

Although she enjoys her job, Smith has plans after stepping aside, including helping friends and family, cosmetology and traveling.

Smith’s husband is a pastor at Church of Living God Temple 2, and church members have asked her to coordinate a Christian spelling bee, she said.

“I’m thinking about it,” Smith said.

PHOTOS: Students compete at the Macon County Spelling Bee

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR


"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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