Avid speller comes of age in first grade

RELATED: Competition never gets old for some

Passion propels Akiva student to qualify for Vindicator Bee

By Denise Dick



Bronx Teague decided he wanted to be in a spelling bee when he was 3 years old.

At the ripe old age of 7, he’ll have his chance Saturday at The Vindicator’s 78th Regional Spelling Bee in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University.

Bronx, who is in first grade at Akiva Academy, is the youngest contestant in this year’s bee. Most of the spellers are in middle school.

“It’s easy for me,” he said of his prowess. He acknowledges that he practices a lot.

“It’s always been a passion for him,” said his mother, Letayia Teague.

When Bronx was very young, he showed a knack for phonics and words. As soon as he learned there was such a thing as a spelling bee, he was all in.

When deciding where to send him to school, his mother made sure Akiva offered a spelling bee and a chance for Bronx to compete in the regional event.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen at this age though,” she said.

Akiva Principal Kathleen Mioni said this is the first year the school opened the bee to younger students. It’s traditionally been restricted to third- through sixth-graders.

Mioni, who started at the school in August, was approached early in the year by Bronx’s spelling teacher, Tirtza Kohan, who suggested the bee be opened to younger students.

Mioni wasn’t sure that was a good idea, concerned about whether younger children were mature enough for the competition. Kohan asked again, though, so Mioni spoke to other teachers and they agreed to have mini-contests among the first- and second-graders. Bronx won in first grade, and he and the second-grade winner competed with the rest of the school.

Bronx won by correctly spelling “succinct” and was awarded a Kindle for the victory.

The school also has a written spelling test the day before the bee, and Bronx won that, too, and was awarded a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card. He earned a $10 gift card after winning the first-grade competition.

“He was like one of those actors at the Emmys,” Mioni joked, cradling her arms like someone holding a collection of awards.

Kohan said she gives Bronx spelling words different from those she gives his classmates to keep him challenged.

Bronx practices with the words on the practice list that his mother printed for him, and spelling is a family affair.

“When we’re at the grocery store, his [twin] brother [Bryce] will quiz him on how to spell something,” Letayia said.

That assistance is mixed in with some joking.

“Sometimes he makes things up,” Bronx said.

When Bronx asks his brother the origin of a word he’s asked to spell, “He says it’s from ‘Bryceland,’” Bronx said.

Even Bronx’s entertainment is about spelling. He likes to play Scrabble, and he owns DVDs of “Akeelah and the Bee,” and the spelling bee documentary “Spellbound.”

“I liked ‘Akeelah and the Bee’ better,” he confessed.

Bronx admits some nervousness gearing up for this weekend’s big event, but he’s not shy about his hopes for the outcome.

“I win,” he said.

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