116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon Middle School eighth-grader Edith Dawson is going to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in June.
Edith, 13, beat out spellers from across Iowa and Illinois last month at the Dispatch-Argus Regional Spelling Bee to qualify for the national competition in Washington, D.C.
She won the bee by correctly spelling “prehensile,“ which means adapting for seizing or grasping.
“I knew winning was a possibility, but my goal was just to see how well I could do and know I tried my best,” Edith said. “I was mostly shocked — winning was really surprising.”
Edith earned an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition, which will have more than 200 regional spelling bee champions.
The trip to Washington will be her first time flying on an airplane, she said.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. Its purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage — skills that will help them all their lives.
At the regional bee, Edith also won a championship trophy, a one-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium, and a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition.
To prepare for the national bee, Dawson is studying the 4,000 “Words of the Champions,” the official study resource for the national spelling bee. Each year, a new version of the list is released with 800 new words added.
Edith said she first realized she was good at spelling in preschool. Her mom and dad — Erica and William Dawson — help her study at home, occasionally quizzing her over the dinner table.
Understanding the “root” words in a language is important in figuring out how to spell a word. When Edith doesn’t know a word, she said she can often make an educated guess, depending on the word’s root.
When spelling a word out loud, Edith said she visualizes the word in her head.
Edith, who hopes to pursue a medical career, also is an avid runner and member of her school’s chess club. She’s a science and math Olympiad, competing against other students in those subjects.
The national bee is being hosted by LeVar Burton, an actor, director, educator and lifelong children’s literacy advocate. The Bee will be televised on June 1 and 2.
Kyle Jaspers, a language arts teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, joked that he “taught Edith everything she knows.”
Spelling comes naturally to Dawson, but she doesn’t stop there, Jaspers said.
“Once in a while, you get a student (when) you need to come to terms with the fact they’re probably smarter than you, and Edith is definitely that,” Jaspers said. “She doesn’t let it go to her head and gives great effort on everything she does.”
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