Jan. 20, 2017
hands in her pockets — both her sweater and pants —pulled on her ear, and
clinched her hands together tightly during the final three minutes of the
school-based spelling bee at Carl Wilde School 79. The nervous twitches seemed
to get faster and more frequent as time dwindled.
Down to the last two spellers, Vanessa’s
opportunity to secure the win came when a fellow schoolmate misspelled the word
“precursor.” All Vanessa had to do was spell that word correctly, followed by
another word, to move on to the next round of competition.
And she did! Vanessa scored the win with
the word “infuriating.”
As the crowded gymnasium of students,
teachers and parents exploded with cheers, tears streamed down Vanessa’s face.
They were tears of joy, of course.
“I cried because I never thought I would
win,” said 11-year-old Vanessa, wearing the first-place ribbon and pin she had received.
“It feels good! You have this feeling that you’ve accomplished something that
you’ve wanted for a long time.”
Vanessa will be one of more than 60 IPS
students participating in the IPS District Spelling Bee on Thursday, Jan. 26 at
Anderson Auditorium on the campus of Arsenal Technical High School. The
competition — for IPS students who came in first place at their school bees —
will begin at 10 a.m. The district bee is free and open to the public.
However, unlike school-based bees, the district
bee also includes vocabulary rounds. Students will be given a word and then
required to choose the correct answer based off of two choices.
“They can ask for clarification, as well
as several other bits of information with each word,” said
Kathy Herald, ELA content specialist in
the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at IPS, who coordinates the bee
for the district. “So just that alone, being able to understand that a word is
not in isolation helps students know that you can get clues from spelling or
from knowing the meaning. It helps them understand that it’s something that is
applied, instead of just talked about.”
Owen N., a 10-year-old fifth-grader at
Center for Inquiry School 84, has already begun studying for the district bee.
Owen is one of two CFI 84 students participating. He will represent his school
at the elementary level; eighth-grader named Sarah C. will represent the middle
“Scrumptiously” is the word that secured
Owen a spot is the district bee.
For about 30 minutes each night, he studied
the more than 400 words students received for the school-based bee. Although
nervous before the competition, he said spelling is something that comes
naturally for him. He anticipated coming in first or second.
“I felt very excited when I won, but I
didn’t want to go around saying, ‘I won, I won, I won! I didn’t want to brag at
all,” said Owen, whose parents and grandmother will attend the district bee. He
hopes his sister, a second-grader at CFI 84, can also attend.
Owen’s strategy for the district bee is
knowing the root of each word. Vanessa plans to study as many words and
definitions as possible, allotting two hours of study time each night before
she goes to bed.
While the spelling bee — at the school,
district, regional and national level — is optional, IPS students are strongly
encouraged to participate in their school-based bee for the experience and
“I think it helps them with building that
perseverance and also the fear of not always being right. It helps them know
that you can’t know everything, but you can be prepared,” said Herald. “Participating
in the spelling bee is so valuable. It’s not a physical challenge, it truly is
mental and I don’t think a lot of our students think of competition in that
way. They always think of (competition) as an athletic event, not a mind
Okel Johnson, inclusion teacher, special
education, at CFI 84, said the bee also helps students gain public speaking
“We encourage students to be speakers and
to speak in front of a group, and having confidence and building those skills.
The spelling bee helps them do that,” said Johnson, who oversees the
school-based bee at School 84.
For students, it’s about the thrill of
competition and moving to the next round. But there’s also the pride of
representing your school.
“I feel great about representing my
school in the district bee,” said Vanessa, a fifth-grader at Carl Wilde. “I
feel really proud of myself and that I really accomplished something.”
Winning one of the three district bee
trophies is likely an incentive, too. The overall district champion, first
runner-up and second runner-up will receive trophies. All participants
will receive a certificate.
The ultimate goal for Vanessa, Owen, Sarah
and the rest of the students is securing a spot at the 2017 Scripps National
Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. But to get
there, they have to successfully get through both the district and regional bees.
Let’s wish all of our 2017 IPS spelling
bee participants good luck!