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Times-News Regional Spelling Bee

White Pine Elementary’s Jessie Shaw of Burley talks to publisher Travis Quast after winning the Times-News Regional Spelling Bee Feb. 27 at Roper Auditorium in Twin Falls. Jessie competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week in National Harbor, Md.


BURLEY — “E-P-I-S-T-L...” Oops.

Twelve-year-old Jessie Shaw can spell words most people don’t know exist and the White Pine Elementary student got a chance to prove it earlier this month at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.

But during the spelling bee, Jessie skipped a letter in her first word, “epistolary,” an adjective that means “relating to the writing of letters.”

“I knew the word, but I got nervous,” Jessie said Monday after returning from her week-long trip to the annual spelling contest that pares off the top 291 competitors from some 11 million spellers who compete regionally.“We’re very proud,” said Jessie’s mother, Karen Shaw, a mapper with Cassia County. “We told her it didn’t matter — win or lose — as long as you do it with grace.”

Jessie did just that, her mother said.

Jessie was the winner of the third annual Times-News regional spelling bee on Feb. 27, beating out 51 other students from 24 south-central Idaho schools. The Times-News paid for Jessie and one parent to travel to the contest.

During the week, Jessie, her father, Sean, her mother and her brother Glen took in the sights around the nation’s capital. They saw the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Museum and met dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The trip was “good,” Jessie said, “but the flight was very, very long.” They returned home late Saturday night.

In the end, Ananya Vinay, a sixth-grader from Fresno, Calif., won the 90th Scripps contest by correctly spelling “marocain” — a ribbed crepe fabric used in women’s clothing — in the 35th round in what is considered the Olympics of language.

It goes without saying Jessie is a good student. This is the second year she competed in the Times-News regional bee.

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“I like math,” she said. “I think I want to be an engineer, but I definitely don’t want to be someone who mixes chemicals together.”

The national competition is likely to be Jessie’s last because Burley Junior High School, where she’ll be a seventh-grader in the fall, hasn’t participated in the regional competition.

If she were to get another chance, however, she would focus her study on the roots of words.

“And,” she said, “I need to work on being less nervous.”


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