Cooper eighth grader wins District 21 Spelling Bee

February 27, 2024

Topic: Updates


After an I-N-T-E-N-S-E 20 rounds of competition, an eighth grader from Cooper Middle School emerged as the victor of the District 21 Spelling Bee, which was held on Feb. 7 in the Community Service Center and Administrative Office.

This year marked the third consecutive bee, which was reborn through Dr. Rob Drewry, literacy equity coach at Cooper. “A couple of years ago, we were discussing how talented our students were, as well as the opportunities we have for them, at which point Rob proposed the idea for a spelling bee for our middle schools,” said Amy Breiler, director of literacy and the arts. 

Markedly different this year was the number of competitors. The previous two bees only invited the top spellers from each grade at the middle schools – “a small but voracious group of students,” according to Breiler – but this year’s bee expanded the pool to include the top fourth and fifth graders from each elementary school.

“Some of those contests were very highly competitive,” Breiler added. “Some ran three to four lunch periods in order to find a champion.”

A pool of more than 250 participants between all 12 elementary and middle schools was eventually reduced to 27, who all competed to be crowned the district’s best speller.

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 came from the Scripps’ School-Level Competition List, which are ultimately pulled from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

During the third and sixth rounds of competition, Drewry switched to vocabulary, which asked competitors to identify the definition for a given word when given two potential choices. He inevitably switched to spelling only as “there are not as many vocabulary words in the competition list and we had so many spellers still competing that I didn’t want to risk running out of vocabulary words.”

After the ninth round, the pool of words was switched to those from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary – which the students had not seen before the event – “because it was clear that the remaining spellers were familiar with the 450-word study list and needed an additional challenge,” Drewry added.

Will C., the eighth grader from Cooper, ultimately won the event. Nina K., a fifth grader from Poe Elementary School, placed second, while Mason B., a seventh grader at London Middle School, placed third.

By winning the district-wide competition, Will advances to the 14th Annual North Cook ISC Scripps Spelling Bee on March 13 in Lincolnwood. If Will finishes in the top three at that competition, he moves on to the All Cook County (minus Chicago) Bee. The national competition would follow if Will wins the all-county bee.

The district wishes Will G-O-O-D L-U-C-K in the North Cook Bee on March 13!