Well Done, Ameera Waterford!

Posted on April 29, 2016 by ELS CC

Maui has new hero to cheer for in the form of Emmanuel Lutheran 8th-grader Ameera Waterford.

Ameera is the newly crowned Hawaii state Spelling Bee champion and, as such, will represent all of us at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the Washington, D.C., area next month.

Ameera successfully spelled the word “subjugate” to best 14 other students from Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai at the state finals on April 1.

The Maui News story on her victory described Ameera as a well-rounded student with interests as varied as math competitions, a basketball club, school musicals and school band. She will be traveling to New York later this month to receive a second-place award in the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s 2016 National Civil War Essay Contest.

2016 marks the 89th year of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

May 22-27 is Bee Week 2016 with the Bee itself taking place May 24-26. About 300 students will gather at the national finals from the estimated 11 million who participated around the world.

The onstage rounds of competition take place May 25 and 26 in the Maryland Ballroom within the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

ESPN will broadcast live from the Championship Finals on May 26 from 2 to 6 p.m. Hawaii time.

We’ll be watching and rooting for Ameera to take home the national crown.

Maui News Editorial Published April 10, 2016, www.MauiNews.com.

ELS 8th-grader Wins State Spelling Bee

Posted on April 29, 2016 by ELS CC

Maui 8th-grader wins state spelling bee, on to nationals

Maui 8th-grader Ameera Waterford made the most of her final year of spelling competition, correctly spelling “subjugate” to capture the state crown last Friday and earn a berth at the nationally televised spelling bee in May.

“It’s really exciting,” Waterford said Tuesday. “I’ve been in a lot of spelling bees, and I’ve never won (the state title). This year since it’s my last year, I just really wanted to get it.”

A two-time Maui district spelling champion, Waterford outlasted 13 other students in 11 single-elimination rounds. Her victory was a close call – she misspelled a potentially winning word that brought several eliminated students back into play.

“So that was like, whoa, I could’ve blown it right there,” Waterford said.

The misspelled word was “finial,” which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “a crowning ornament or detail” that can be found at the end of a curtain rods or flagpoles, added Waterford, now well-versed in the definition.

Before state competition, students are given 1,100 words to study, Waterford said. The first three rounds test students on the spelling and vocabulary of those words. After that, judges go off list. To win, students must correctly spell two words in a row. Waterford’s winning word, “subjugate,” means “to defeat or gain control of by the use of force,” according to Merriam-Webster.

Fourteen students, first- and second-place finishers from Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai, competed, including Maui District champion Jason Huynh, an 8th-grader at Iao Intermediate School. Huynh made it to the fifth round, mentor and Iao teacher Lynette Zakabi said. Huynh did not have an official placement, because he was eliminated with a group of students, explained Mark Nishiyama of event sponsor Kamaaina Kids.

“I’m extremely proud of Jason because I know he worked really hard on this,” Zakabi said. “It was so challenging because these words that are given at this level are not in everyday use.”

Zakabi said it was Huynh’s first time at the state level, after coming just shy of qualifying as a 7th-grader. Last year, Waterford and her younger sister Leela, who was then a 5th-grader, went to states after finishing first and second in the district.

Waterford said her preparation involves a lot of reading, quizzing and reviewing commonly misspelled words. After coming in fifth place as a 7th-grader, she concentrated more on language patterns. According to dictionary.com, more than 60 percent of all English words have Latin or Greek roots.

“I studied a lot more about roots and languages, so when I got words I hadn’t specifically studied, I’d be able to figure them out,” she said.

Aside from spelling, Waterford has also been involved in math competitions, school musicals and school band. And, she plays with the Sparks Basketball Maui club. On April 21, she’ll be traveling to New York to receive second-place honors in the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s 2016 National Civil War Essay Contest, open annually to students in grades 6 to 12.

Sarah Kuske, who teaches English, Spanish and literature at Emmanuel Lutheran, said Waterford “has a mind like a steel trap.”

“She hears one word, one time, in 6th grade forever ago, and she’ll remember it,” Kuske said. “She’s internally motivated. As a teacher if I push her, she’ll take it and she’ll go with it.”

In the fall, Waterford is headed to Seabury Hall.

“Ameera worked very hard this year,” her mother, Anita Waterford, said. “As a parent, you like to see your child find their skills and talents. I think that’s our job as parents, to help them develop whatever they’re good at.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place May 22 to 27. Competition includes nearly 300 students from the United States, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, according to the spelling bee website. There will be two computerized tests before competition moves on stage to be televised on ESPN.

Article First Published April 6, 2016, By Colleen Uechi, Staff Writer, The Maui News, www.MauiNews.com.