- Parma City School District
Hillside Middle School Bee spells excitement for students
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.