10 area students advance to March 8 spelling bee in Wheeler

2014-02-15T17:30:00Z 2014-02-15T19:37:34Z 10 area students advance to March 8 spelling bee in WheelerSUSAN EMERY Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 15, 2014 5:30 pm  • 

UNION TOWNSHIP | Ten of the area's best student spellers have clinched a spot at the Kankakee Valley REMC Final Spelling Bee on March 8.

A total of 12 students in grades four through eight competed Saturday in the Lake/Porter County District Spelling Bee at Wheeler High School. All of the students had won spelling bees at their schools to earn a place in the district competition.

Of the 10 finalists, Adam Akan, Sophia Panos and Zoe Swayne earned first, second and third place, respectively.

Akan, 9, of Dyer, is a fourth-grade student at Montessori Children's Schoolhouse in Hammond. He correctly spelled “importunate” and then “lingua franca” to nab first place.

“It feels great,” he said, hoisting a trophy that was about half his size.

His parents, Anna and Andy Akan, said their son had shown an interest in letters and words beginning at the early age of 16 months.

That aptitude, coupled with his work ethic — he studied two to three hours a day for the district competition — enabled him to win his school's spelling bee twice.

Robin Kusiak, who is Adam's teacher at the Montessori school, joined his parents, little brother Michael, 6, and grandparents to watch the competition.

“He works hard and he's confident of his abilities,” Kusiak said. “He's always been a very diligent student.”

Second-place winner Sophia Panos, 13, of Schererville, is an eighth-grader at Forest Ridge Academy. She said she listened to the pronunciation of words online as part of her preparation for the competition.

Sophia's mom, Thespena Panos, said her daughter did not inherit a talent in spelling from her.

“It skipped a generation. She got it from her grandma,” Thespena Panos said.

Grandma Mary Cappas said she won a spelling bee as a sixth-grader at Riley School in East Chicago in 1951.

“I'm very proud of her,” she said of her granddaughter.

The 10 Lake/Porter students will compete against the top nine finishers from the LaPorte County Spelling Bee at the Kankakee Valley REMC Final Spelling Bee, scheduled for March 8 at Wheeler High School.

One winner will then advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 25 to May 31 in Washington, D.C.

Kankakee Valley REMC, a local electric utility membership cooperative, is sponsoring the Lake, Porter and LaPorte County spelling bees for the sixth year.

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