TAMPA – Buchanan Middle School sixth-grader Gregory Bateham is one kid who has no use for spell check.
Gregory topped everyone in school at the recent Buchanan school spelling bee. He was one of the youngest contestants but was crowned the champ after spelling the word “mugwumps.” The word is the name for Republicans who left the party to join the Democrats and Grover Cleveland way in 1884. Gregory topped the seventh- and eighth-graders at Buchanan to earn a trip to the regional spelling bee at the Music Center at St. Petersburg College on March 8.
A win there could lead to states and, ultimately, a spot in the national championship and a chance to win the title on ESPN.
There’s still a long way to go, but Gregory has the confidence and is as articulate as most adults.
“I love to read and want to be a writer one day,” said Gregory, who also wants to be an engineer after college. “I was nervous at first, but I got used to it. I am getting ready for the next step.”
Gregory, who is a straight-A student at Buchanan, said he figured out the secret to the spelling bee pretty quickly.
“I break it down to the origins of the word such as whether it is Greek, or Latin, or something else,” Gregory said. “They give you a study sheet with the words and it is very complex, but I read a lot back in my elementary school days, so it all made sense. It wasn’t too tough and some of the older kids were a little nervous, so that made me confident.”
The next step might be a little more difficult. Once again Gregory will be one of the younger kids in the contest featuring a list of possible quiz words 36 pages long.
Winning was something Gregory wasn’t expecting.
“I was in shock when I won,” Gregory said. “I thought it would be tough, but I used a lot of the words they gave me in regular conversation, so I was prepared for them. The words were simple but complex.”
Gregory’s gotten a lot of help from his former teacher, Hajnalka Nokaj who, he said, encouraged him to never quit and to keep studying harder.
“She’s the best teacher I ever had and if I win, it’s because of her,” Gregory said.
With another win, Gregory would make even a mugwump proud.