Sixth-grader wins Sullivan spelling bee with 'blandishment'

Rick Wagner • Mar 12, 2018 at 8:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — You may or may not be able to spell blandishment with an audience watching your performance.

But an Innovation Academy sixth-grader did just that to beat out 26 other students in the Sullivan County middle school spelling bee earlier this month. 


Dawson Pendleton, son of Ashley and Jon Pendleton, won the right to attend a regional spelling bee in Knoxville, a stepping stone to the national spelling bee. He and his parents are awaiting word of when and where the event will be in Knoxville.

In this year’s competition, held in the little theater of Sullivan Central High School, 27 middle school students gathered. Each middle school in the county sent the top three school-level spelling bee winners to compete at the district level.

Dawson, who lives in Surgoinsville, had to spell blandishment. In case you’re wondering, a blandishment is a flattering or pleasing statement or action used to persuade someone gently to do something. Dawson said he plans to attend high school where he can be part of a robotics team, continuing his time in robotics he started at IA, and study technology. 

“I want to be in NASA when I grow up,” Dawson said Monday, when like competition day he was wearing a NASA T-shirt. His mother said he has a collection of NASA T-shirts.


“There was a huge list” of words on the study guide he used for about a month, 11-year-old Dawson said. “I just studied it every day and I practiced with my mom and dad.”

Leading up to the win, his next closest competitor, eighth-grader Meredith Hart of Mary Hughes School, missed a  word and Dawson then spelled solstice correctly. That word is either of two times a year, in the summer or winter, when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky, also marked by the longest and shortest days of the year, respectively.

The third-place finisher was Austin Riner, an eighth-grader at Sullivan Gardens K-8.

“If you take your time,” Dawson said, the spelling is easier. “A lot of people spell it too quickly and get it wrong.”

The local win means Dawson can compete at the regional spelling bee to be held in Knoxville if he and his parents choose to advance, which his mother said they plan to do.

“We would like to applaud each representative for advancing on to the district spelling bee competition. The spelling words presented were challenging, and students embraced the challenge with confidence and skill,” said Marian Graham, curriculum instructional coach for the school system. “Several rounds of spelling were required to glean the top three district spelling bee winners.” 

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