News Feature

Penobscot
Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 7, 2019 and The Weekly Packet, February 7, 2019
Can you spell P-e-n-o-b-s-c-o-t? School to host county bee
Winner to move on to Maine State Spelling Bee

by Anne Berleant

Dig out that dictionary or load an app onto your phone because the Hancock County Spelling Bee is coming to Penobscot Community School on February 12.

The peninsula has produced not only the last six county winners but a handful of state champions, who then competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Since 2013, the county spelling champion has come from one of two local families. First, Brandon Aponte, of Brooklin, parlayed his 2013 county win into a state championship. He won the county bee again in 2014, competing in the states for a second straight year. Castine middle schooler Syra Gutow won back-to-back county titles in 2015 and 2016 and won the state championship on her second try. In 2017 and 2018, as a Blue Hill resident, Colin Aponte took home county honors and won the state bee in 2018. His younger sister, Rebecca, then a fifth-grader, placed second in 2018 behind her older brother.

But before the Aponte-Gutow reign, East Blue Hill’s Imogen Page won the county bee, qualifying for the state championships, in 2008 and 2009. She won the state title in 2009.

Students from fifth to eighth grade at elementary schools throughout Hancock County are invited to participate each year at the bee, which has been held at Cave Hill School in Eastbrook in recent years—a 45-minute drive north at a time when weather can, and has, impacted travel. Holding the bee in Penobscot this year will likely erase that concern for local participants.

“The area schools were asked to coordinate and host this year’s spelling bee,” Penobscot Community School teacher Michele Charette said. “And [teacher] Chandra [Bisberg] and I agreed that Penobscot would be the perfect place.”

Schools hold their spelling bees in January, with the top two finishers qualifying for the county bee. The third-place finisher serves as an alternate. This year, 25 local students are set to compete, representing 11 middle schools, including those from Castine, Bay School, Blue Hill, Penobscot and Sedgwick, and home-schooled students.

Students will take the stage at Penobscot Community School at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12, with a snow date set for February 13.

The peninsula has produced not only the last six county winners but a handful of state champions.