Sunday, February 25, 2018
Education

Corbett Prep sixth-grader heads to Scripps spelling bee

CARROLLWOOD — When Corbett Preparatory School headmaster Joyce Swarzman won her schoolwide spelling bee as a sixth-grader, she dreamed of going to the famed Scripps National Spelling Bee.

She never got there.

But years later, when teachers Kim Rostick and Vickie Johnson approached her with the idea of creating a schoolwide spelling bee, Swarzman saw her chance to get to the national bee.

She will see that chance materialize as sixth-grader Riju Datta, winner of the Corbett Prep bee for the past four years, represents the Tampa Bay area in the national competition, which begins Tuesday.

Rostick said having a student qualify for the national bee is a big deal at Corbett Prep, where preparing for the schoolwide bee starts early in the year with a pep rally and includes eight to 10 weeks of practice rounds in the classroom before the actual schoolwide bee of about 150 spellers.

"It has set a precedent," she said. "Other students can look at him and say, 'If he can do it, I can, too.' It starts with spelling your first words."

Riju said he spends about 12 hours a week practicing, and his teachers said his memory is phenomenal.

He even remembers the words he has spelled incorrectly each year. In third grade, it was "suite," because he got confused with the definition. In fourth grade, he got the "e" and "u" mixed up in "schadenfreude."

Riju's teachers say he is helped along by his mother, Jhumanath, who has attended each regional tournament with a laptop, typing lists of each word spelled and misspelled by each contestant, color-coded by round.

When practicing, Riju said he reads the words and studies their parts of speech, alternate pronunciations and language of origin. His favorite words have German and French roots.

"Sometimes German and French words are words that just sound fancy," he said. "Like gallimaufry. You could just say you have a lot of jumbled stuff, you wouldn't really need to say you have a gallimaufry."

Sometimes at competitions, Riju said, his palms get sweaty and his heart beats faster when he starts to spell. He said that could increase when he competes at the national level.

"Just knowing you're one of the best in the country is kind of nerve-racking," he said.

Riju's skills go beyond spelling. This year he placed in regional math competitions, a state geography bee and the state science fair, where he earned recognition for his project on Pick's theorem and dividing a polygon by its lattice points.

Allison Lester, a school coordinator for the spelling bee, said the competition will be streamed through the classrooms at Corbett. Riju's teachers have also talked about hosting a viewing party if he makes it to the finals, from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday.

That perked up Riju.

"Wait, isn't that really late, though?" he asked.

"It's worth it. You're worth it," Rostick told him.

Comments
Special Olympians shine at county summer games

Special Olympians shine at county summer games

NEW PORT RICHEY — It was one of those perfect days, when sunscreen and shade are in high demand, smiles are aplenty and the camaraderie on the field trumps the thrill of victory.About 600 Special Olympians and unified athletes from west Pasco schools...
Published: 02/23/18
Pasco foundation battling childhood hunger one school at a time

Pasco foundation battling childhood hunger one school at a time

ZEPHRYHILLS — On a Thursday morning in a small warehouse off Gall Boulevard, a well-oiled machine of goodwill is cranking. At the Thomas Promise Foundation, volunteers Carlos and Robin Clothier, pack boxes of macaroni and cheese, granola bars, apple ...
Published: 02/23/18
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Published: 02/22/18
Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, cornbread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored...
Published: 02/22/18
Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

With high school students from Parkland in the Capitol this week advocating for gun control, the bill that would have allowed superintendents and principals to designate trained employees who can carry concealed weapons at school didn’t get heard as ...
Published: 02/22/18
How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time next Tuesday, they will be greeted by additional counselors and law enforcement."There will be a plethora of counselors and services at the school," Broward Schools Superintende...
Published: 02/21/18
School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears to have been in line for a sizable inheritance. He’ll never get to spend it — except perhaps on defense attorneys.The amount could be enough to compel a judge to order him to hire a private lawyer, rather ...
Published: 02/21/18
Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

DADE CITY — A Pasco High School student was taken into custody Tuesday amid accusations of threatening violence against the school. The campus was not at risk, school district officials said. But they made clear they take each threat seriously, and t...
Published: 02/21/18
‘Blind Side’ star delivers message to Newsome High kids

‘Blind Side’ star delivers message to Newsome High kids

LITHIA — Students, faculty and staff recently scurried inside the Newsome High School gym for a morning assembly to hear a message about bullying from a man who kids once taunted.Newsome’s principal Carla Bruning invited actor Quinton Aaron, star of ...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Spoto High helps students un-bottle emotions with Challenge Day

Spoto High helps students un-bottle emotions with Challenge Day

RIVERVIEW — Spoto High School English Department Head Adam Sherman can’t help but wonder if a program he introduced to Spartan students could have changed the trajectory of Nickolas Cruz’s life before he gunned down and killed 17 people on Valentine’...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18