Twenty-one students representing all Middle School grades gathered in Eliot Chapel after school earlier this week to participate in the 2023 spelling bee. The spelling bee at MICDS is open to all fifth- through eighth-graders. There are no classroom spelling bees, instead our Middle Schoolers compete in this one divisional bee. Students register for the spelling bee club in October and practice every other week from November through January until the spelling bee. Once the winner of our school spelling bee is determined, the champion advances to the St. Louis Regional spelling bee, which is hosted this year at Saint Louis University on March 25.
Olivia Halverson, Middle School English Teacher, oversees the spelling bee club and organized the bee, offering a friendly and familiar face to the competitors as they each took the podium to spell. Yash Shelar ’26 served as judge and captain of the bell, while Seventh Grade Global Perspectives Teacher Berta Simic and JK-12 English Department Chair and Upper School English Teacher Lynn Mittler volunteered as record keepers. Each student was given one word per round to spell, and the competition was fierce.
Halverson introduced the bee by telling students that « success in the beginning is all about what you’ve memorized and what you’ve done, while at the end, it’s about connecting what you’ve learned before to the unknown word presented. » She also told them to relax, take a deep breath, and be clear with pronunciation. « You will sound big in this space, but that’s ok, » she assured them. With that, the first speller stepped to the podium. (Every bold word in the following paragraph was used in this year’s spelling bee!)
From the beginning, letters swept through the space, with consonants and vowels whizzing through the Chapel. It was quite exciting! Minute by minute, the students had to decide how they wanted to spell, some without an inkling of what their words meant. Thankfully, Halverson provided definitions after a query, as per traditional spelling bee rules. One thing was constant: these students are great spellers, able to embrace strange new words and wrestle their letters into place. Although the temperature in Eliot Chapel was noticeably cool that day, the spellers churned through words and benefitted from a feisty audience, with the sound of clapping regularly floating up to the ceiling. Even when they misspelled a word, their efforts didn’t go unacknowledged as Halverson congratulated each speller before they left. After the first round, four spellers were separated from the competition, and each subsequent round lost one, two, or three spellers each. With breakneck speed, the spellers were prompted through each word, some of which are reputed to be prevalent in daily use while some might require an enterprising mind to deduce their meaning from context. The students stood in solidarity, though, cheering each other on with flair. Full disclosure: we heard they all reconvened as friends after the bee.
« Spelling bees are beneficial and important for students » for many reasons, said Halverson. « They reinforce students’ knowledge and use of phonics skills and word decoding skills. Concepts such as ‘when two vowels go walking, the first one usually does the talking.’ They give students an opportunity to work toward an individual goal within a community of other students. Spelling, reading, and hearing new words helps students’ acquire vocabulary, and the bee serves as a public speaking opportunity. Finally, their spelling skills are ideally transferable to their classroom work and other writing. »
Why do the students think they’re so fun? Halverson said, « Students LOVE competing against themselves and one another! Sometimes, when students are learning brand new words, it can be a real test to choose the right vowel pairing or consonant to spell a word correctly, and for students who are passionate about engaging with language, this experience is exhilarating. »
Congratulations to all our spellers for a great competition, and especially to winner Andrew Li ’28 and runner-up Wyatt Eggers ’30. Li took the crown by correctly spelling the word intermittent. He advances to the St. Louis Regional spelling bee at Saint Louis University on March 25. Well done, Middle School spellers!
Want to try your hand at spelling? We’ll provide a list of other words used in this year’s bee below. Don’t peek! Hand this article to a friend, tell them to scroll down, and ask them to quiz you!
Try your own spelling bee! Without peeking, have someone challenge you to spell these words: