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  Mattawoman Middle School eighth grader is county Spelling Bee champ, heads to national competition  

The word that clinched the 2023 Charles County Spelling Bee for a Mattawoman Middle School eighth grader was “valedictorian.” Correctly spelling the word that defines a student with the highest academic achievements of a graduating class seems a fitting word for Alec Gallahan to nail.

He advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee held this summer at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor. The national contest will see more than 200 spellers from around the country visiting the Washington, D.C., area for the Bee. The National Spelling Bee semifinals will air on ION 8 p.m., June 1, with the finals broadcast 8 p.m., June 2.

To get to nationals, Gallahan had to out spell 39 of his middle school peers from schools around the county. The students in the local Bee are the best middle school spellers in Charles County who first compete at the school level, then take an online spelling exam before earning a chair at the in-person Bee. Every Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) middle school had a team of two-to-four students who advanced to the local competition Thursday, the same for three private schools — Archbishop Neale School (ANS), Southern Maryland Christian Academy (SMCA) and St. Peter’s School. The final four spellers in the closing rounds were Gallahan, Angelo Milazzo and Selah Wolfe of Southern Maryland Christian Academy, and Alex Dusterwald of Archbishop Neale.

It was an Alec vs. Alex final round when the two eighth graders faced off at the end of the Bee, with Gallahan emerging as victor. Dusterwald and his ANS teammates didn’t walk away empty handed. They were named the Top Team in this year’s Bee. The award is given to the team that earns the most points in the online test and for words spelled correctly in each round. ANS gathered 56 points to come in first with Mattawoman and Benjamin Stoddert middle schools tying for second place with 54 points each.

While studying for the competition hones a student’s spelling skills, it also benefits other aspects of their education. “The competition encourages the exploration of words and lifelong curiosity, with a focus on helping students set goals and dedicate time to study and preparation,” John Tompkins, CCPS content specialist for middle school language arts, said. “Participation in the Bee program also provides an opportunity for students to gain experience in public speaking and displaying poise under pressure.”

Below is a list of students who made it to the 2023 Charles County Public Schools Spelling Bee.

  • Theodore G. Davis Middle School — Xavier Obannon, sixth grade, Alexandra Powell, eighth grade, Mart Elam Lofranco, sixth grade, and Kayman Burwell, eighth grade. (Lofranco and Burwell did not attend the local Bee.) Kimberle Johnson is the coach.
  • John Hanson Middle School — Kyndel Tucker, sixth grade, Karaganne Burroughs, seventh grade, Aydin Jones, seventh grade, and Ikari Joseph, eighth grade. Jennifer Biegner is the coach.
  • Matthew Henson Middle School — Makayla McCall, Amir Rushdan, Syriana Stitt and Isabella Wilburg, all seventh grade. Debby Holder is the coach.
  • Mattawoman Middle School — Brent Travers, sixth grade, Alec Gallahan, eighth grade, Dennis Harrison, eighth grade, and Alexander Nguyen, eighth grade. Christina Washington and Jody Bell are the coaches.
  • Piccowaxen Middle School — Olivia Schmelzer, sixth grade, Janae Northington, seventh grade, Karis Pilkerton, seventh grade, and Aubrey Vogel, seventh grade. Coaches are Amber Sullivan and Nancy Buter.
  • General Smallwood Middle School — Nhu Quynh Vo Phan, seventh grade, Myles Alexander, eighth grade, and Sanya Sitoula, eighth grade. McKenzie Rodriguez is the coach.
  • Milton M. Somers Middle School — Jayden Hill, seventh grade, Rebecca Johnson, seventh grade, Jhourni Jones, eighth grade, and Addison Kelly, eighth grade. Valerie Amend and Fara Walent are the coaches.
  • Benjamin Stoddert Middle School — Kaylee Paulk, seventh grade, Genevieve Macean-Heath, eighth grade, Aaron Nguyen, eighth grade, and Camila Rivera Lemus, eighth grade. Danielle Smith is the coach.
  • Archbishop Neale School — Tejas Suri, seventh grade, Dylan Wilkerson, seventh grade, Alex Dusterwald, eighth grade, and Joshua Vincent, eighth grade. Denise Oglesby and Susan Gardiner are the coaches.  
  • Southern Maryland Christian Academy — Addison Huffer, sixth grade, Angelo Milazzo, sixth grade, Selah Wolfe, eight grade, and Kaylee Strickland, eighth grade. (Strickland did not attend the Bee.) Kari King is the coach.  
  • St. Peter’s School — Mikaela Schnaubert, sixth grade, Christiana Williams, sixth grade, Gregory Avila, seventh grade, Grace McCourt-Santos, seventh grade. Kelli Schmidt is the coach.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).