After winning the spelling bee at Big Elm Elementary School last year, fourth-grader Kayla Medina went on to compete at the county level against students in fourth- through eighth-grades.
"I think she lost her concentration some when she saw the older students. But she said, 'That's OK, I'll win next year,'" said Lisa Medina, Kayla's mother.
Kayla's prediction was correct. The fifth-grader won her school spelling bee in January, the county bee in February and the regional RESA VII Spelling Bee last Thursday at Robert C. Byrd High School. Kayla is now headed to the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., to compete against nearly 250 students from around the nation.
"I wasn't as nervous this year because I knew what to expect. I think the regional was actually easier than the county event," she said.
Kayla, the daughter of Lisa and Mike Medina of Enterprise, credits a great deal of her success to her mother, a teacher at Barrackville Middle School. Lisa has read to her daughter since she was born and has worked with her each evening since January to help prepare for the county and regional events.
"Kayla went to Catholic school in kindergarten and first grade, and they still used the old books that taught phonics. I think that's why she does so well, because she learned to read and spell phonetically," Lisa Medina said.
For the local and regional contests, Kayla studied from a small paperback book containing a designated list of words.
For the national event, Kayla will study from a 6,000-page dictionary that she won at the regional bee.
"I'm giving her a week off to rest, because I don't want her to burn out. Then we'll start to tackle the dictionary," Lisa Medina said.
Not surprisingly, Kayla said her favorite subjects in school are spelling and English. But Kayla also plays the violin.
"I want to be the concert mistress for the Boston Symphony," she said.
Though her parents are proud of Kayla's accomplishment, Lisa Medina said she's more pleased at what the competition has done for her.
"Kayla was so shy in kindergarten that the teacher had to drag her out of the car. Now she has a nice presence on the stage and is easily able to get up in front of people. That's a major accomplishment," she said.