What's all the buzz about? It must be time for the annual I-Kan Regional Spelling Bee.

The bee, which this year will feature 19 top spellers from grade schools throughout Kankakee and Iroquois counties, will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School Auditorium. Whoever claims the championship will represent the region in the Scripps National Spelling Bee set for late May in Washington.

Who the eventual champion will be is anybody's guess? Only two contestants return from last year's bee. They include Shreeta Vachhani, a Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center eighth-grader who finished in a second-place tie in 2016, and Larrigan Saindon, a sixth-grade student who attends Bishop McNamara Catholic School's Bourbonnais site.

The lack of experience only adds to the potential intrigue. While last year's bee was completed in a relatively short eight rounds of competition, the previous three events lasted 24 rounds or more.

Each grade school in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, public and private, is eligible to place a student in the regional bee. The event brings together people from many communities, thus spurring widespread interest. Admission to the event is free, and all are welcome. While family and friends often make up the majority of the audience, others in the crowd attend simply out of general interest.

Whoever comes out on top will represent the region in the national bee, which is annually held Memorial Day week in the nation's capital. The Daily Journal sponsors the trip for the winner and a member of his or her family. The national bee gets considerable media coverage, and the final rounds are carried on national television.

Meet the spellers:

Elexias Jackson

Elexias Jackson


Elexis Jackson • Sixth grade

Parents: Catriese Carson Jackson and Marion Jackson

Personal achievements/interests: Singing and reading

Goal: Teaching

Winning word: Avian

Megan Joann Mussard

Megan Joann Mussard


Megan Joann Mussard • Seventh grade

Parents: David and Lisa Mussard

Personal achievements/interests: High honors, principal's awards, chorus, band, reading, crafting and art

Goal: To attend college

Winning word: Nonage

Claire Curry

Claire Curry


Claire Curry • Seventh grade

Parents: Amy and Chris Curry

Personal achievements/interests: Basketball, volleyball and softball

Goal: To become an orthodontist

Winning word: Satchel

Kharibian Allen

Kharibian Allen


Kharibian Allen • Sixth grade

Parent: Kaleena Washington and Samuel Allen

Personal achievements/interests: Health Advocates, Eco (Stem) Club, Chess CLUB, singing, sewing, dancing and listening to music

Goal: Aspires to be a marine biologist, as well as pursue a career in singing

Winning word: Deadline

Emilie Lindgren

Emilie Lindgren


Emilie Lindgren • Eighth grade

Parents: Bjorn and Jodie Lindgren

Personal achievements/interests: Hockey camp volunteer, National Junior Honor Society (two years), Student Council, Best Buddies, Kankakee County Teen Court, youth group leader, food pantry volunteer, playing hockey and reading

Goal: Help others

Winning word: Lecithin

Anna Berg

Anna Berg


Anna Berg • Seventh grade

Parents: Tanya and Tim Berg

Personal achievements/interests: Attends Grace Baptist Church, is involved in youth group, plays basketball and soccer for Grace Christian Academy's Junior High and varsity teams, plays percussion in band and participated in Junior High Honors Band at Olivet Nazarene University, reading and sewing

Goal: To attend Cedarville University for business

Winning word: Emperor

Colin Zeppi

Colin Zeppi


Colin Zeppi • Seventh grade

Parents: Michelle and Scott Zeppi

Personal achievements/interests: Band, Kan/Will Honor Band, volunteer in community, PAARC score recognition, honor roll, Boy Scouts and mountain biking

Goal: Military (Army)

Winning word: Conscientious

Brandon Rudolph

Brandon Rudolph


Brandon Rudolph • Eighth grade

Parents: Irma and Floyd Mix

Personal achievements/interests: St. George math team and basketball

Goal: To go to college

Winning word: Tawny

Caroline G. Noe

Caroline G. Noe


Caroline G. Noe • Sixth grade

Parents: Claudia and Brian Noe

Personal achievements/interests: Girl Scouts, altar server at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bradley, math, plays flute in band, reading, writing stories, gaming, listening to music and drawing

Goal: Only the future can tell, I'm only 12 after all

Winning word: Omnivorous

Anna Latham

Anna Latham


Anna Latham • Eighth grade

Parents: Alison and Tom Latham

Personal achievements/interests: Active runner in cross country between 2014-16 and have competed at the state level. Enjoys participating in track and field, writing, reading and spelling

Goal: To become an animator and graphic designer

Winning word: Capricious

Amelia Conroy

Amelia Conroy


Amelia Conroy • Eighth grade

Parents: Allison Conroy-Dismang and Robert Dismang

Personal achievements/interests: High honor student, most valuable player and team captain of volleyball and basketball, team captain for cross country, acolyte at church, editor of student newspaper, member of student council, soccer and reading

Goal: To attend Bishop McNamara Catholic High School

Winning word: Nonviolent

Jewel Pippin

Jewel Pippin


Jewel Pippin • Seventh grade

Parents: Margaret and Aaron Pippin

Personal achievements/interests: Making the honor roll, math team, spelling team, student council, track, volleyball, cheerleading, reading and swimming

Goal: Going to college for literary arts

Winning word: None listed

Gavin Markoff

Gavin Markoff


Gavin Markoff • Seventh grade

Parents: Jennifer and Josh Markoff

Personal achievements/interests: Student of the month, football, school orchestra, reading, playing video games and watching professional wrestling

Goal: I plan to be a lawyer, physicist or software engineer

Winning word: Avian

Shreeta Vachhani

Shreeta Vachhani


Shreeta Vachhani • Eighth grade

Parents: Bharti and Peter Vachhani

Personal achievements/interests: Scholastic bowl, dancing and playing the clarinet

Goal: To become a lawyer

Winning word: Tabulation

Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon


Alex Gordon • Eighth grade

Parents: Aimee and Arthur Gordon

Personal achievements/interests: Symphonic band, jazz band, scholastic bowl, chess club, reading and playing alto saxophone

Goal: To become an astrophysicist

Winning word: Accordingly

Elijah Myers

Elijah Myers


Elijah Myers • Sixth grade

Parent: Althea Myers

Personal achievements/interests: A-B honor roll, member of King Middle School band and playing video games

Goal: To be a math teacher

Winning word: Infuriating

Larrigan Saindon

Larrigan Saindon


Larrigan Saindon • Sixth grade

Parents: Kathy and Curt Saindon

Personal achievements/interests: Cast in KVTA productions, altar server at St. George Catholic Church, competitive swimming, playing flute and saxophone and volleyball

Goal: Being in a symphony or orchestra that records soundtracks for movies

Winning word: None listed


Adelaide Young • Eighth grade

Parents: Heather and Erik Young

Personal achievements/interests: Various KVTA productions, orchestra, student advisory council, Jr. National Youth Leadership Council attendee, acting, singing, musical theater and ukulele

Goal: Recording artist, songwriter and/or actress

Winning word: Marooned

Jae Alderson

Jae Alderson


Jae Alderson • Eighth grade

Parents: Kari and Jeremy Alderson

Personal achievements/interests: President of Beta Club, co-captain of volleyball team, high honor roll, youth group at Gathering Point Church of the Nazarene, writing, playing alto saxophone, volleyball, reading and hanging out with friends

Goal: I'll see what doors open and close, but I'd like to go to college and pursue a career in writing or medical science

Winning word: Concussion

The Pronouncer

Will Rezba

Will Rezba

Will Rezba retired from teaching speech and English at Herscher High School, where he coached the speech team and directed class plays for 34 years. He also was an adjunct instructor of public speaking at Kankakee Community College. Rezba holds a bachelor's degree in speech and drama from McKendree College and a master's degree in English Education from Olivet Nazarene University. He resides in Herscher with his wife, Tricia. Rezba is looking forward to his 14th year of serving as pronouncer for the I-KAN Regional Spelling Bee.


Patty High

Patty High

Patty High is the new professional development administrator for the I-KAN Regional Office of Education. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in special education at Eastern Illinois University and received her Master of Arts in educational leadership from Olivet Nazarene University. This is High's 14th year in education. She previously was a special education teacher at Mannheim Middle School, Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School and Herscher High School.

High's position as the professional development administrator for I-KAN Regional Office of Education, allows her to provide professional learning opportunities to educators and schools districts in both Iroquois and Kankakee counties.

She and her husband, Alan, who also is in education, and their two children reside in Herscher.

Andrew Wheeler

Andrew Wheeler

Kankakee County Board Chairman Andrew Wheeler is a resident of the historic Riverview district of Kankakee. He also is director of marketing for FutureCeuticals, a global leader in the growing, manufacturing, scientific research and product development of natural ingredients for the functional food and supplement industries. Wheeler holds a master's degree in media communications and training from Governors State University.

Frank Petkunas

Frank Petkunas

Frank Petkunas, assistant regional superintendent of Iroquois-Kankakee County schools, has spent the last 17 years working in education. He began his teaching career at Peotone High School in 2000 as a biology and physical science teacher. In 2002, he joined the faculty at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School as a science teacher. In 2007, Frank became the science department chair at BBCHS.

In July 2012, Frank accepted the position of assistant regional superintendent of schools for I-KAN. In this capacity, he provides support to school districts and educators in Kankakee and Iroquois counties through the programs and services provided by the regional office of education.

Frank, his wife, Sonya, and their three sons reside in Limestone, and have lived in the Kankakee area their entire lives.

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