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Eighth-grader wins city spelling bee
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Eighth-grader Katie Gilbert (right) won the Martinsville Schools’ division-wide spelling bee on Tuesday. She is seen with runners-up Olivia Draper (left) and Leah Reese. In back is school Superintendent Pam Heath. (Bulletin photo)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

After four rounds, the words “vanilla” and “dissect” brought spelling bee victory for Martinsville Middle School eighth-grader Katie Gilbert.

Katie, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Gilbert, competed with Albert Harris Elementary School fifth-grader Olivia Draper, daughter of Jason Draper and Tamara Hairston, and Patrick Henry Elementary School fifth-grader Leah Reese, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jody Reese.

The Tuesday evening spelling bee was for the Martinsville division. Katie will move on to a regional spelling bee in Winston-Salem, N.C., on March 23. If she wins there, she will be able to compete in May in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Only students in grades three through eight are eligible to compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee, according to Martinsville Schools 21st century programs Coordinator Anne Stultz, who emceed the Tuesday bee.

Also, Stultz said, no matter what grade a student is in, all spelling bee words are drawn from the same random pool.

The three students who competed Tuesday previously won school-wide spelling bees at their individual schools.

During the spelling bee, Olivia stumbled in round one on the word “bandit,” and Leah was knocked out by the word “stethoscope” in round four.

In round four, Katie correctly spelled the word “vanilla,” and then sealed her victory by correctly spelling one last word: “dissect.”

“It’s definitely a good feeling to be back,” Katie said. She also won the division-wide spelling bee two years ago, when she was in sixth grade.

Shortly after Olivia was eliminated, Katie approached her, placed a hand on her shoulder, and whispered something into her ear.

“I just encouraged her (and told her) she did great,” Katie said. “It’s hard to speak in front of people. She had already beaten out her whole elementary school, which is a big accomplishment.”

Added Katie, “It’s hard going against an eighth-grader, being little. I understand completely; I’ve been there.”

Gilbert’s father, Lt. Mark Gilbert of the Martinsville Police Department, said when his daughter competed in the regional bee two years ago, he was impressed by the difficulty of many of the words students were expected to spell.

“The last year she went to regionals,” he said, “she knew every word but two: the word that knocked her out, and the word that knocked out the second-place boy. I’ll never forget the word: it was ‘twoling.’ I’ve never seen the word.”

A twoling is a “twin crystal,” according to

Virginia Gilbert, Katie’s grandmother, said her granddaughter inherited her public speaking skills from her grandfather, the late Henry Gilbert, who was a radio announcer.

“He could always get up and speak in front of anybody,” Virginia Gilbert said. “She’s getting better at this all the time.”

Martinsville City Schools Superintendent Pam Heath congratulated all three students for making it to the division-wide spelling bee.

“I think that you’re all winners,” Heath said. “I know every year when we do this, it’s always disappointing when you a miss a word. Don’t let it bother you, because you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t already out-spelled a whole lot of people.”


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