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Students to compete in the regional spelling bee for chance to advance to nationals



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Tara Ganguly, the 2017 IU Bee runner up, spells an early-round word on her hand. The Scripps National Spelling Bee was started in 1925 by the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky.  Emily Miles Buy Photos

Students from five Indiana counties are coming to Bloomington to compete in the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee at 11 a.m. Saturday. It is open to the public.

The spelling bee, , also called the IU Bee, is sponsored by the IU Media School and School of Education and will take place at the Monroe County Public Library. 

“The best part of the competition is seeing how amazing these kids are,” said Scott Witzke, director of communications at the School of Education. “That’s why people go into education.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee was started in 1925 by the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, 11 million students around the world compete each year. Students must win a regional spelling bee — like the IU Bee — to advance to the national competition.

The competition is for students in first through eighth grade, Witzke said. Winners of the IU Bee advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals. The semifinals and championship take place May 26 to 31 in National Harbor, Maryland. 

Students participating in the IU Bee advanced from spelling bees at their schools in Brown, Greene, Monroe, Morgan and Owen counties. The students must also complete a written vocabulary test at the School of Education before competing. 

There are 28 participants in this year’s Bee, Witzke said. The competition includes two judges from the IU Media School and one from the School of Education, as well as a reader who gives the words and context to the students. 

This year, Witzke is the master of ceremonies. The competition can last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Students who compete in spelling bees do well in high-pressure situations, Teresa White, director of the High School Journalism Institute at IU said.

“It can be very dramatic,” White said. “The room gets quiet and intense, and the whole audience will sit there and almost hold their breath.”

The IU Media School and School of Education began sponsoring the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in 2012. The Herald-Times and Reporter-Times sponsored the spelling bee from 2004 to 2011, IU Media School spokesperson Anne Kibbler said. 

The winner of the regional bee has been from Monroe County for the past several years. Witzke said it is uplifting to see how well the students represent their schools.

“To see the kids console someone else at the competition when they’re down is really amazing,” he said.

The winners of the regional bee not only advance to nationals but also receive the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, which is a U.S. Mint Proof Set consisting of rare coins. It is presented by Jay Sugarman, founder of iStar Financial Inc., in honor of his father. Students also win a one-year subscription to Britannica and Merriam-Webster online.

White said she looks forward to the competition and meeting the students every year.

“It sounds so nerdy to say you love a spelling bee, but you see how earnest these students are,” White said. ”It’s endearing and exciting.”

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