Cooper sixth grader wins CCSD21 spelling bee

Claire, sixth grader at Cooper and the winner of the spelling bee, with Dr. Rob Drewry, literacy equity coach at Cooper

While “Matilda the Musical” taught us that some children can S-P-L how they like, five CCSD21 middle schoolers competed on Tuesday, Feb. 8, to crown the district’s best speller.

Claire, a sixth grader from Cooper; Emilia, a sixth grader from London; Snigdha, a seventh grader from Cooper; Devin, an eighth grader from Cooper; and Bryce, an eighth grader from London, were chosen to compete after having won the grade-level bee at their respective schools. While students from all three middle schools were invited to compete, there were no spellers from Holmes or from seventh grade at London.

The idea to host a district-wide competition was reborn through Dr. Rob Drewry, literacy equity coach at Cooper. I joined CCSD21 in the 2021-2022 school year and when I learned there was not a district bee, I knew I wanted to coordinate one,” he said.

Prior to the event, each student was able to review a packet of 450 words, all of which were accompanied by their definitions. The words come from the Scripps’ School-Level Competition List, which are ultimately pulled from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. 

Each round, the competitor approached the podium, was presented with their word, and had the opportunity to ask Drewry for its definition, use in a sentence, part of speech, alternate pronunciation or language of origin. They were then prompted to state the word, spell it, and repeat the word to end their submission. If correct, they moved back to their seat and waited for their next attempt. If incorrect, Drewry offered the correct spelling and they would then go and sit with whomever was there to support them. 

Every third round was a vocabulary round, in which Drewry offered a word and provided two definitions. It was then up to the student to select the correct definition.

The event was very humbling for any adult in the crowd, especially those who have confidently omitted the “b” from doorjamb for a number of years. Or when trying to remember how to spell exhilarate (is it e-x-h-i-l-i?). 

Once two students were eliminated, the bee switched its format and the predetermined list discarded. The words became more challenging. Claire, the Cooper sixth grader, was ultimately crowned the champion. Devin placed second, Bryce placed third, and Emilia and Snigdha tied for fourth.

By winning the district-wide competition, Claire advances to the 13th Annual North Cook ISC Scripps Spelling Bee on March 15 in Lincolnwood, Illinois. If she places within the top three at that round, she then advances to the 13th Regional ISC Scripps Spelling Bee Championship on March 28 at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois. She reaches nationals if she wins the all-county bee.

We had a competitive district bee last year with the district’s winner advancing from the North Cook County Bee to the all Cook County Bee, which I took as a good omen for the future of the bee in D21,” Drewry said.

The district, also believing in a good omen, wishes Claire G-O-O-D L-U-C-K in the North Cook Bee on March 15!