Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
This story published in Anderson Independent-Mail Thursday, May 30, 2014.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Andrew Dunn doesn’t even like spelling. It’s boring, he said.
But the 13-year-old from Lakeview Middle School found himself peering from behind his thick-rimmed glasses and side-swept bangs into an audience of hundreds Wednesday at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
In Round 2 and his first time on stage, contestant 219 misspelled a-l-i-m, defined as a Muslim learned in religious matters, spelling it a-l-l-e-m. He said he was thinking about the word Allah.
Anderson School District 5’s first student in at least seven years to compete in the Bee was eliminated from the competition.
“I’m a little upset, but most of all relieved,” Andrew said.
He said he had “no choice” but to compete.
Andrew was required try out for the bee in his English class. He moved onto his school’s bee, then regional’s, where he competed for the second year. Last year, he placed eighth in the regional bee.
This year, he won with “extravaganza.”
“The activity isn’t fun for me, but it just snowballed into this,” he said.
His mom said there were no expectations.
“This is nothing we planned or studied for,” Angela Dunn said. “I think I was more nervous than he was. But we’re just grateful for and humbled by the experience.”
Andrew studied 45 minutes to an hour each day leading up the national bee.
His sister Caroline, 17, said it was frustrating to watch him lose.
“It was hard to see other spellers get words I helped him study – words I know he would have gotten right,” Caroline said.
But Andrew said he even felt iffy about the bee’s Round 1, a computerized test that spellers took Tuesday.
Although Andrew doesn’t particularly enjoy spelling, his mom uses her son’s achievements to get her second graders at WhiteHall Elementary excited about it.
Andrew and his mom FaceTimed her students before he took the stage, and she texted them updates throughout. She’s even using her family’s time in Washington as a learning tool.
“As a Title 1 school, some of these kids may never travel here in their life. I’m sending them pictures and updates all the time. I’m using Andrew and his experience to motivate my students,” Angela Dunn said.
Title 1 is a federal program that directs extra money to schools with a large number of low-income children.
Now that Andrew has some time off, he wants to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He’s a history buff. The family will return home Saturday.
The A and B student is also a member of his school’s National Beta Club and his church’s student ministry.
He’ll start at Westside High School next year, where he said the Microsoft Surface tablet the bee gave all the spellers will come in handy.
“I keep telling myself that I’m just lucky to have the opportunity to come and explore D.C.,” Andrew said.