TAMPA – Riju Datta, a sixth-grader at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS, will go to Washington, D.C., in May to compete in the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee as the representative for the Tampa Bay area.
Riju survived 15 rounds of competition with 24 spellers March 8 at the Tampa Bay Regional Bee at St. Petersburg College. His winning word was “altiplano,” a high plain or plateau.
Riju, who lives in Carrollwood, has advanced from Corbett Prep’s school spelling bee to the regional competition four times. He has placed in the top five every time, once coming in second. During a previous trip to the regional bee, he got bumped from competition for misspelling “schadenfreude,” a word he successfully spelled when it came up again this year.
Riju is the first student from Corbett Prep — previously known as Independent Day School — to advance to the national competition.
Corbett Prep puts a strong emphasis on the spelling bee, kicking it off in the fall with a pep rally. This year, 127 students participated in the school bee. Classes held individual competitions, and students faced off in a schoolwide bee. The top seven spellers then moved to a “spell off” to see who would represent the school at the regional contest.
Kim Rostick, a fourth grade teacher and one of the three school spelling bee coordinators, said the process teaches students about balancing competition and cooperation, in addition to spelling, word origin and vocabulary.
“The kids can feel what it’s like to win, and be graceful when you don’t,” Rostick said.
Students from four counties in grades 3 through 8 compete in the regional bee. The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place the week of May 25.