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Hillside Middle School Bee spells excitement for students

Hillside Middle School Spelling Bee contestants February 3, 2020


On Friday‭, ‬January 24‭, ‬the Media Center at Hillside Middle School was abuzz with 30‭ ‬students and teachers for the school’s annual Spelling Bee‭.‬

Open to seventh graders at the school‭, ‬the annual Bee provides students the ability to show off their spelling skills in hopes of attending the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C‭. ‬this Spring‭.‬

“They‭ (‬Scripps‭) ‬provide a qualifying test‭,‬”‭ ‬Thadda Layhew‭, ‬English teacher at Hillside‭, ‬explained‭. ‬“I give that test to the entire seventh grade‭. ‬The top scorers are able to get into our Bee‭. ‬And they are pretty tough words‭. ‬I’d say‭, ‬high school and college level words‭.‬”

“It was 15‭ ‬different words‭,‬”‭ ‬Salina Cao‭, ‬a seventh grader and competitor in the Bee‭, ‬described‭. ‬“She‭ (‬Layhew‭) ‬would say the words‭, ‬put them into a sentence‭, ‬and then we would spell it out on paper‭. ‬The qualifying scores‭, ‬those were the people that were picked‭.‬”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been an institution in classrooms nationwide since 1925‭. ‬According to the Scripps website‭,‬‭ ‬565‭ ‬students from across the nation earned their spot in the competition at the 2019‭ ‬National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C‭., ‬with‭ $‬50,000‭ ‬in cash for the winner‭. ‬Nearly 11‭ ‬million students participated in the Bee program from all 50‭ ‬states‭, ‬along with seven countries‭.‬

Last year‭, ‬for the first time ever‭, ‬the Scripps National Spelling Bee had eight students tied as champions‭. ‬The‭ ‬“octo-champs”‭ ‬as they were called‭, ‬tied after 20‭ ‬rounds of finals‭, ‬successfully spelling words like‭ ‬“erysipelas”‭, ‬“bougainvillea”‭, ‬“aiguillette”‭, ‬“cernuous”‭ ‬and‭ ‬“odylic”‭.  ‬The national event is televised each year on ESPN‭.‬

“The Spelling Bee provides an awareness of spelling‭, ‬because nowadays they‭ (‬students‭) ‬are so reliant on technology‭,‬”‭ ‬Layhew expressed‭. ‬“It also reinforces our study here of Greek and Latin roots‭. ‬We teach Greek and Latin roots in the entire seventh grade‭, ‬which allows to breakdown words to determine meanings by how they’re spelled‭.‬”

For Cao and fellow competitor Gabriel Koo‭, ‬both members of the 7th grade‭ ‬“Claws”‭ ‬house‭, ‬the Hillside Spelling Bee was a way to showcase their skills‭. ‬Both students are products of Green Valley Elementary School and were excited for the opportunity in January‭.  ‬

Interestingly enough‭, ‬both students favorite subject in school is not English or spelling‭, ‬but Mathematics‭.‬

“I really like Math‭,‬”‭ ‬Koo said‭. ‬“It’s all organized and it just makes sense‭.‬”

In the end‭, ‬the Hillside Spelling Bee was as action-packed as the National Spelling Bee‭. ‬Two students‭, ‬Olivia Lam and Nam Nguyen‭, ‬earned their way into the final two spots at the Bee‭. ‬For 21‭ ‬rounds‭, ‬it went back and forth‭. ‬

Nguyen sealed the victory with his correct spelling of‭ ‬“tetanus”‭ ‬in round 26‭. ‬He will now advance to the Cuyahoga County Spelling Bee on March 7‭ ‬in downtown Cleveland‭.‬

“You know‭, ‬I’ve been explaining to them that there’s training for this‭,‬”‭ ‬Layhew added‭. ‬“This is like an athlete‭, ‬the way these kids can advance‭. ‬About three or four of them have been doing that‭, ‬while the others just‭ ‬relying on their skills‭.‬”


PHOTO CAPTION:  ‭(‬L-R‭): ‬Hillside Middle School seventh grade English teacher Thadda Layhew and school counselor Kasey Kellem listen as student Salia Cao spells a word at the school’s annual Spelling Bee‭.‬