2024 District Spelling Bee

…. And the DeSoto ISD Spelling Bee Champion Is
Posted on 02/06/2024
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After 21 rounds and almost three hours of intense competition between the district’s top campus spellers at the DeSoto ISD Spelling Bee, a champion emerged. The crowd with bated breath erupted in cheers, applause, and standing ovations as Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy’s sixth-grade scholar Cassandra Piggatt, and Ruby Young Personalized Steam Academy’s fifth-grade scholar Benjamin Pearson, claimed the top spellers seats as winner and runner-up, respectively. 

See full event photos here.

“It feels great to be the winner and I know that I achieved a lot. As the district champion, it seems unreal. I never thought that I would be the winner of the district”, said Cassandra Piggatt, district spelling bee champion. “I am excited about the next spelling bee.”

The night commenced with the seating of the student participants, the judges, and recordkeepers, and a warm-celebratory welcome by noted education advocate, speaker, and emcee Lady Jade, formerly of K104 FM radio. She set the atmosphere for the evening, reminding guests of the times they sat in their spelling bee chairs, audience members shared their winning words and shared support for all the scholars.

Swinging legs, tightly clasped or wringing hands, twiddling of fingers, the 16 campus spelling bee scholars in grades first through eighth sat on the stage in rows with competition numbers around their necks. Eyes widened and a momentary upswing of their heads with nervous smiles as the official pronouncer, DeSoto ISD director of MTSS Dr. Arthurlyn Morgan, mounted the stage to begin the spelling rounds.

The first word of round one was “broken” but after two rounds of competition, the speller circle remained intact.

The chairs begin to empty slowly during rounds three and four, leaving about six spellers to compete for the top chair. In round six, the scholar count narrowed to four students in the quest consisting of two elementary students and two middle schoolers.

By Round 12, the group decreased twice more leaving Piggatt and Benjamin Pearson in a one-to-one, verbal word challenge as the audience was intensely hanging on every letter. By Round 21, the quest for the best speller was no more as Piggatt spelled the winning word “hitherto” correctly.

Pearson waged an intense battle for the top seat and will join Piggatt at the Dallas County Spelling Bee as her alternate.

“It feels good to be a winner but there is a little more work that needs to be done. I need to win and not be second place. But, I am glad that I advanced,” said Pearson.

See event video recap here

DeSoto ISD reintroduced the spelling bee as an opportunity for current students to engage in the preparation and the event as a means to encourage literacy.

Two DeSoto High School senior students Joshua Levine and Ramsey Ferguson joined Ms. Ana Coca, Bilingual Education coordinator as record keepers for the event and DHS senior class president Abiba Moncriffee served as one of the judges alongside DeSoto Mayor Rachel L. Proctor, Glenn Heights Mayor Sonja A. Brown, DeSoto ISD School Board Trustee Dr. DeAndrea Fleming.

“I wanted to give to my community before I leave for college,” said Ferguson who is also a TCU Community scholar. “This job is very important and I am glad that I have two other people with me just in case.

Levine and Ferguson’s team was responsible for writing down the actual letters used by the scholar to have a comparative list of the event occurrences. 

“When I was in my middle school days, I did not get to do a spelling bee competition so when I saw the opportunity I wanted to help out the community and the youth,” said Levine who arrived early and was enthusiastic to offer his support. He is an Early College High School student who plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington upon graduation.

DHS senior Abiba Moncriffee served as a judge and visually announced the spelling bee rounds.

The DeSoto ISD spelling bee participation is a compliment to the district’s literacy learning component and DeSoto ISD Spelling Bee Coordinator Dr. Rashida Hobbs-Jones was extremely excited to bring back the district spelling bee community evening that was halted during the recent pandemic.

“The whole basis of this spelling is to promote and encourage literacy in a fun and engaging way,” said Dr. Hobbs-Jones. “DeSoto is a small community but a mighty community and we come together to support our scholars to make sure that they are thriving. Anything that is going to create a level of excitement and learning engagement, our community stands together so that our students can be the beneficiaries.”

One DeSoto ISD Eagle to watch for in the future is current Cockrell Hill Elementary second grader Elijah Ward. Mr. Ward is already spelling on an eighth-grade level and successfully competed above students twice his age for much of the district bee. District leaders noted his skills, tenacity, confidence, and enthusiasm as he participated in the bee.

DeSoto ISD Spelling Bee winner, Piggatt and runner-up, Pearson received gift cards from Bank of DeSoto, Piggatt also received a gift bag from the City of DeSoto and will be featured on a digital display at Access Self Storage's DeSoto location (Hampton and Danieldale).

Piggatt will go on to represent DeSoto ISD at the Dallas County Bee on February 17 at Highland Park Middle School. Pearson will attend as the 1st alternate for DeSoto ISD.

Congratulations to both scholars advancing in the event and to all DeSoto ISD participants.