Miami Herald | by Carli Teproff | March 18, 2021
This year’s annual Miami Herald Spelling Bee started like no other:
“I am honest to myself. I am fair to my classmates and teachers. On my honor, I will neither give nor receive any help during this virtual spelling bee.”
The 15 spellers in the Miami-Dade bee and the 15 spellers in the Broward bee were asked to repeat the integrity pledge just before the virtual competition began.
This is the first time the annual bee, which is now in its 81st year, was held virtually. Last year, the Miami-Dade competition happened just before the lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Broward bee was canceled.
“We all wish we could have had a traditional in-person competition, but we are excited that we are still able to offer a virtual spelling bee program,” Juliana Echavarria, advertising and event partnerships manager for the Miami Herald, told the Broward students on the Zoom call Thursday afternoon. “Congratulations to you, the spellers, you have earned the honor of competing here. No matter what the outcome of today’s competition you are already champions.”
The winners were:
▪ Miami-Dade — Juan Rondeau, a sixth-grader at Westminster Christian School, placed first; Valeria Vasquez, an eighth-grader at Downtown Doral Charter Upper School, placed second; and Isabella Velasquez, a fourth-grader at South Pointe Elementary School, placed third.
▪ Broward — Steven Dubin, an eighth-grader at Imagine Charter School, placed first; Vikram Renganathan, an eighth-grader at West Glades Middle, placed second; and David Liebowitz, a seventh-grader at NSU University School, placed third.
The two winners will represent their county at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held July 8 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. There will be three levels of virtual competition before 10-12 spellers will be named to participate in the in-person competition. The National Bee was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
The competition may have been virtual, but the words were still as challenging as always. Some of the words the kids faced: palatial — of, relating to, or being a palace; praxis — exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill; and subcutaneous — being, living, occurring or administered under the skin.
Juan won with the word lobscouse, which according to Merriam-Webster is a stew formerly eaten by sailors, consisting of meat, vegetables and hardtack. Steven won with the word colubrine, which according to Merriam-Webster means of, or relating to, or resembling, a snake.
This year’s competition began with students taking an online test. In Miami-Dade, there were 53 students in the first round and 45 in the second. In Broward, there were 34 students in the first round, and 29 in the second. The top scorers became the finalists.
There were some differences than the typical in-person bees. Students were asked to show a full view of the room they were in. Parents had to be behind the spellers. The speller’s hands had to be in view of the camera.
“It was the same procedure, just in a different application,” said Mark Schermeister, who has been involved in spelling bees for decades. He said the virtual bee worked, but not being in person took away from the “flare of spelling bees.”
Valeria, an eighth-grader at Downtown Doral Charter Upper School, said she was thrilled when she learned there would be a virtual bee.
“I didn’t think there was going to be a spelling bee,” said the 13-year-old, who came in second place. “I love spelling, it is an interesting way to learn new things.”
Valeria said she looking forward to next year’s bee.
“I will definitely be back,” she said.
In Broward, the bee went to the eighth round, with 13-year-old Steven winning. Steven came in second place two years ago, to Simone Kaplan, who won the Broward bee three years in a row.
Steven first took a liking to spelling after watching the movie “Akeelah and the Bee” in the third grade. The movie centers around spelling competitions.
“I think it’s amazing that I have the chance to represent Broward and the Miami Herald,” he said. “I am just really happy.”
Miami Herald Miami-Dade winners: First place, Juan Rondeau, top left; second place: Valeria Vasquez, top right; and third place, Isabella Velasquez. MIAMI HERALD
Featured image: Miami Herald Broward Spelling Bee was held on Zoom March 18, 2021. MIAMI HERALD