Spelling bees are ‘an adventure, an odyssey’


On March 17, West Tisbury School seventh grader Sam Fetters won the annual Martha’s Vineyard Schools Spelling Bee for the second year in a row. Next week Sam will be heading to Washington, D.C., where he will compete in the national spelling bee, held from May 31 to June 1.


I love spelling bees because they’re an adventure, an odyssey — you want to achieve this goal, but you can’t unless you work hard. My love of spelling came naturally from my love of reading. My earliest memory is reading “Goodnight Moon” and books about the weather, but I read a lot of nonfiction, especially world history, prehistoric life, and topic encyclopedias, and that expands my vocabulary. My favorite word is “prestidigitation” because I like the way it sounds (it means magic tricks).

During competitions it is very nerve-racking. I remember in fourth grade I did my first schoolwide bee, and I was so nervous I kept asking for water between rounds. Last year’s schoolwide bee I was very prepared, and knew every word on the study list. This year I did too, but so did my classmate Ingrid Moore, so after it was just the two of us left standing, each time I spelled correctly, she spelled correctly, and we ended up going over three lists. She is a great speller! The reason I didn’t make it to the schoolwide in fifth grade is because she beat me in our classwide, and that was another epic showdown!

Going to the national competition is even more nerve-racking, but there is this moment after you finish spelling your word correctly that time stops. There are almost 1,320 people in the audience, but it feels to me like the only people in the room are me and Dr. Bailly, the head pronouncer of Scripps.

My mom helps me prepare by reading off study words, and I type them up as fast as I can. This is how I see which ones I need to study — the ones I miss I work on. For the national competition, I need to know definitions too. I’ve found that putting them to a song helps mark them in my memory: “Duchess the wife of a duke, Ecstatic very elated …” or “Croquembouche a cone-shaped stack of cream puffs coated with caramelized sugar, or Culminate, to reach a climactic or decisive point!”

My hope this year is that I pass the written preliminaries test and the threshold for the final 50 spellers going into the finals.