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Are you smarter than this 'bantling' who won the Gainesville City Schools spelling bee?
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Virginia Munn takes part in the Gainesville City School System district spelling bee Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, at the school board offices on Oak Street. The Enota Multiple Intelligences Arts Academy student won the annual event and moves on to the next round. - photo by Scott Rogers

Virginia Munn spelled “bantlings” and “primordial” before a panel of judges to take home the first-place medal at the Gainesville City School System’s spelling bee Friday. 

When asked about her reaction, the modest bantling (bantling means a young child) had only one word: “Surprised.”

She will now go on to represent the school system at the Georgia Association of Educators’ Region 2 spelling bee Feb. 26 for the chance to advance to state and national competitions later this year. 

On the path to her win, she also correctly spelled the word “mortification.”

Her mother cited hard work and dedication behind the victory. 

“She would practice spelling almost every night,” Virginia’s mother, Amy, said. “Watching her become a more competent speller was definitely a proud moment for us as parents.” 



Virginia said she learned tricks for spelling words like “imagined” and “dormitories,” and she would break the words into chunks. 

And as if spelling these words wasn’t hard enough, the youngsters also had rounds in which they had to choose the correct definition of words. 

“We were impressed by all the kids,” Amy Munn said. “I can't imagine competing in a spelling bee. It's so stressful, and they handled it very well.” 

Madison Williams, a fifth grader at New Holland Knowledge Academy, was the runner-up after misspelling the word “semblance.” She will attend the regional spelling bee as a backup in case Virginia can’t compete. 

The district spelling bee includes students from grades four through eight, and there are more than 4,000 students across those grade levels.

“It's quite an honor just to be there,” said Michelle Cantrell, ESOL coordinator who helped organize the spelling bee. “That's a huge accomplishment. And it not only represents the students’ willingness to study all these words — they've been studying the words for months — but also a family commitment to literacy. Their parents have read to them, and they love to read and they love to write — and that's what builds good spellers.” 

After a virtual event last year, the spelling bee was held in person this year with coronavirus protocols like masking in place. 

“Even with the COVID numbers being what they are, we were really grateful to be able to do it in person and to have the parents there and see the children's faces,” Cantrell said. 

Here are all the students who competed: 

  • Virginia Munn, Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy
  • Asher Pettit, Centennial Arts Academy
  • Emanuel Mojica, Gainesville Exploration Academy
  • Mario Reyes, Fair Street International Academy
  • Madison Williams, New Holland Knowledge Academy
  • Alex Nguyen, Mundy Mill Learning Learning Academy
  • Dondre Jenkins, Gainesville Middle School


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