How do you spell success? Just ask Jacob Matthews who blitzed the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee with a perfect score in the state final.
The Grade 4 student at Derinya Primary School in Frankston South is one of nine Victorian super spellers now headed for the national showdown.
Despite being “very nervous”, Jacob kept a cool head to correctly spell all 30 words served up to him in the state final, including a couple of words he’d never heard before.
“There were some new words I did not know even existed,” said Jacob, 9, who has a sound strategy for tackling tricky words.
“I usually try and work out what the vowels are first because I usually know the consonants.”
The avid reader will join fellow Victorian students including Jewel Polson, 13, and Theekshitha Karthik, 11, in the national final on May 27.
Haileybury College Grade 6 student Theekshitha not only scored 30/30 but she did it in the lightning speed of 1 minute .007 seconds.
“It’s not just about the spelling, it’s also about the typing and how fast you can do that, so I focused on practising my typing as well as my spelling,” said Theekshitha, one of four Haileybury College students to qualify for the national final with a perfect score.
Jewel, who is in Year 8 at Lighthouse Christian College Cranbourne, also notched a perfect score despite speaking only a little English when she came to Australia from India seven years ago.
“I was pretty impressed to make the national final and had a sense of accomplishment, especially seeing that English isn’t my first language,” she said.
“I have worked hard because I didn’t really know the language when I came here, so I’ve maybe put in extra effort to learn and I think that has contributed to my success.”
The Victorian contingent will be among 66 students from around the country competing at the national final.
Almost 21,000 students from 490 schools originally signed up for the Spelling Bee, which is run by Kids News and News Corp Australia.
News Corp’s community ambassador and Herald and Weekly Times chairman Penny Fowler congratulated the state champs.
“The Spelling Bee is a key part of our commitment to helping boost childhood literacy and it’s fantastic to see so many children embrace it with such enthusiasm and success,” she said.
Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said the Spelling Bee was a fun way for children to hone their spelling skills.
“The competition is a great way for kids to practise their spelling skills and get them excited about learning new words,” he said.
“Congratulations to all the state and territory winners who have made it through to the National Final.”
The competition culminates with the crowning of three national champions — one from each of the Year 3-4, Year 5-6 and Year 7-8 age groups.
They will win a visit to Canberra to meet the Prime Minister, an iPad and a $250 HarperCollins book pack.
The school of each national winner will also receive a $1000 gift voucher to spend on books, technology or other equipment and supplies.
Originally published as The sweet spell of success