This is the first time Grace Chiou has reached Lake County Spelling Bee Finals.
“I feel nervous about the next level, but also kind of glad that I made it this far,” Chiou said.
The hardest word at the sectionals for Chiou was “Neptunium,” something that she had never heard of before.
“When I hear a word I don’t know, first I try to figure out the letters I do know and then I try to piece together the rest of it,” Chiou said. “While I’m thinking about that, I ask for the definition and the sentence, so it gives me time to think it over.”
Even if Chiou knows the word, she still asks for the definition and a sentence because it helps her confirm the spelling before saying it.
The other trick Chiou uses is asking for the origin of the word.
“Like how the F sounds in photosynthesis, but it’s spelled with PH, so it kind of helps when I get a Greek word and it has that sound,” Chiou said.
In addition, staying focused is an important part of Chiou's routine at competitions.
“When you are thinking of other things instead of trying to spell a word, you are wasting time,” she said.
St. Joseph School Principal Charles Lynch says the school has more of a vocabulary approach, where word origins such as Greek endings and Latin are discussed in class.
Practice Through Reading, Writing
Chiou is an avid reader and writer and says both are great for practicing spelling. So what’s her favorite part of the competition?
“I think my favorite part is after you spell the word correctly and then you get to sit back down and you know you are good for another round,” she said.
Chiou cites her family as big supporters who help her study the vocabulary list.
Apart from spelling, Chiou says she feels a sense of camaraderie with fellow spellers.
“The people up there with me (at the competition), like the one from Deerfield, kind of gives me a connection to them because I know they like to do the same thing,” she said. “We were all a bit nervous, we all talked it over and told each other jokes, it kind of calms us down, and gives us a team so we are not that scared anymore.”
Lynch says Chiou is one of the few students that have made it to the Lake County finals.
“We are proud of all of our kids but we are also proud of Grace to be able to go on to the finals to represent our school and family,” Lynch said.
Chiou says she is nervous about the finals on Thursday but also excited.
“I’m not really sure if I’ll win because the other people were also really good,” Chiou said. “But I just want to try my best.”