The winning word was constellation

Submitted by the Rotary Club of the San Juan Islands.

Hazel Johnson once again proved her spelling prowess at Rotary’s 18th Annual Spelling Bee. Johnson, an eighth grade Friday Harbor Middle School student in Mr. McKinnon’s class, won first prize for correctly spelling the final two words in the competition: gnaw and constellation. Hazel also won the Bee in 2022 and came in second in 2023 when she was in the 6th and 7th grades respectively. This year’s Bee attracted 27 students from the San Juan Island and Orcas Island elementary and middle schools, grades 4 through 8.

Hazel was awarded a $100 check; her class will receive $200 and her school $300 from the event sponsor, the Rotary Club of the San Juan Islands. As the second-place winner, Elliot Roach, a seventh grader also in Mr. McKinnon’s class, received a $75 check, his class will receive $150 and school $200. The organizers ensure a supportive atmosphere where every student receives a medal and a round of applause whether they spell their word correctly or not.

Michael McKinnon, Friday Harbor Middle School teacher, related, “I’m always so impressed by these kids, often shy in class, who bravely get up on stage and give it their best. I’ve realized that sometimes these students don’t quite fit into the same categories as our athletes, theater kids, or student government participants. If I had to characterize this demographic — they’re our readers. Rather reserved by nature, and particularly comfortable passing the lunch recess curled up with a book in the library. Thank you for giving these kids a spotlight. Looking at those bright smiles on Hazel and Elliot’s faces was heartwarming.”

Orcas Middle School teacher Yotam Zohar (Mr. Z), who enthusiastically shepherded the Orcas contingent of eight students, told us he was, “immensely proud of our team for stepping up to the challenge and preparing for the event. This is an outstanding group of young people who also shine in many other ways. It was wonderful to see them compete and to see such bright and promising kids from other schools. We look forward to returning next year.”

Thanks to announcer/pronouncer Scott Sluis, who provided amusing uses of the chosen words in sentences; Paul Mayer, organizer extraordinaire; Rotary President, Susan Martin; judges, Carla Wright and Carrie Unpingco; medal distributor, Frank Fagan; literacy program coordinator, Barbara Fagan and Holly Henry for checking folks in. Special thanks to Pastor Greg Lund and the Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church for providing the perfect venue. Thanks too, to family, friends and teachers who attended the fun event and who are dedicated to educating and encouraging students to be their best.

Thinking about joining Rotary? Learn about the local club, here:

Contributed photo by Barbara Marrett
Hazel Johnson, first place winner; teacher, Michael McKinnon; Elliot Roach, second place winner.

Contributed photo by Barbara Marrett Hazel Johnson, first place winner; teacher, Michael McKinnon; Elliot Roach, second place winner.