Saturday, June 23, 2018
Education

Valrico student reaches finals of Scripps National Spelling Bee

Nikitha Chandran's favorite word is triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. • "Even though I love the number 13," she said. • She likes the word because "it's just cool," and, believe it or not, she can spell triskaidekaphobia with ease. • Nikitha, 13, of Valrico competed recently in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland. She competed in the finals and finished 11th out of 281 spellers. She missed the word pathognomonic.

This was the second year the Brandon Academy eighth-grader made it to the national competition. She first competed in a spelling bee at school in fourth grade. She didn't do very well, she said, and resolved to study more and give it a real try the next year.

"I found out I had a knack for spelling, and then I just wanted to pursue it because I liked it," Nikitha said. "I liked winning spelling bees."

At last year's national competition, she finished just below the cutoff for the semifinals.

"It was huge. It was unlike any spelling bee I'd been to," she said. "I just wanted to have fun that year and soak it all in."

The semifinals and the final round happen in the same day. Her big goal this year was making it to the semifinals, but she made it to the final round, which was broadcast by ESPN.

Making it to the finals was amazing, she said. "I couldn't think about anything else, I was excited the whole time."

The competition was fierce but friendly. Everybody there takes it seriously, she said, but no one glares at each other.

"There were a bunch of boys that were in the finals that are really close friends," she said. "It's amazing to see these friendships."

Nikitha tried to study every day, using dictionary word lists her father got for her. Her mother would quiz her and help her fix her mistakes.

It takes more than a good memory to win a spelling bee. Nikitha studied the definitions of words, their roots, the language of origin, anything that would help her connect a word to its spelling.

"You can't memorize the dictionary," she said. "It's hard to memorize words just by their sounds."

Eighth grade is the cutoff for the competition, so she won't be competing next year. She'll be a freshman in the Strawberry Crest IB program. She has been involved in drama and loves performing, singing and dancing. She wants to get back into playing the piano.

Nikitha's family was proud of how well she did at the competition this year, said her mother, Dr. Sumita Chandran, 39, an internist who practices in Plant City. The family includes young twins.

It wasn't just about the competition or their daughter's success, she said.

"We are busy with work, busy with the twins all the time," Sumita Chandran said. "The whole week, it was just family time. It was good family time, and being a top finalist, that's awesome."

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2453.

Comments
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.The assignment? ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18