With one word, Cleveland Middle School student Lyric Marler won the chance to represent the city school system in the Chattanooga Regional Spelling Bee, an official qualifying event for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The eighth-grader correctly spelled the word "gregarious" to win the annual Mildred Maupin Spelling Bee held at CMS on Tuesday.
"I'm still shaking," Marler said shortly after her win. "It feels really good to be the winner, and I am in shock. Really, everybody did a great job, and it could have been anyone."
Twenty students qualified to compete in the Cleveland City Schools' district-level spelling bee for grades 6-8, and 19 of them were able to compete.
Prizes were also given for those winning second through fifth place. These winners were Julian Rios — second place; Neil Patel — third place; Aizik Sinitsky — fourth place; and Jake Pelley — fifth place.
Though not everyone was able to move on to regional competition, CMS Principal Dr. Leneda Laing said all the students are deserving of praise.
"It takes a lot of courage to get up there and have someone test your knowledge," Laing said. "They also showed they have a true love and excitement for English language arts."
Though their teachers had helped encourage them as they learned new vocabulary words, these competitors took it upon themselves to study at home to make sure they were well-prepared.
Marler admits she did not spend a great deal of time preparing for the competition, but she credits her parents with helping her develop a love for language. She had been homeschooled in the past, and her father would often quiz her on her spelling even after her regular lessons were done.
"I like practicing spelling," said Marler. "Most people think they shouldn't study spelling too much, because they think it doesn't really matter. I think it can help you get ahead in life."
She added that knowing how to spell well helps make one a better communicator, which can help lead to more positive opportunities.
Director of Schools Dr. Russell Dyer was part of the event, and he offered his congratulations to all 20 of the students who had qualified to compete Tuesday.
"These are the top 20 spellers out of the nearly 1,400 students at Cleveland Middle School," said Dyer.
Laing and Dyer offered their thanks to all who helped with the event. This included judges Martha Jefferies, Dawn Robinson, Lloyd Rogers and Buster Stuart, along with recorders Kathy Phillips and Miriam Anderson. The officialpronouncer was Steve Hartline, and the organizing attendant was Pat Collins.
Special thanks went to Maupin, the local spelling bee's namesake and coordinator. The retired teacher helped start the local spelling bee more than 40 years ago, and she has remained involved with it since her retirement in 1991.
As the regional spelling bee approaches, Marler said she plans to buzz her way through more vocabulary words to make sure she can succeed at the next level.
"I'm a little nervous, but I'm really excited, too," said Marler.
The Chattanooga Regional Spelling Bee takes place March 10 at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Fine Arts Center, beginning at 1 p.m. The winner of this event will move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, to be held in Washington, D.C., in May.
Inset Quote (Page 1):
"It takes a lot of courage to get up there and have someone test your knowledge." — Dr. Leneda Laing