Meet a 13-year-old Redding student who has her eyes on the Scripps National Spelling Bee
C-O-N-C-E-N-T-R-I-C, concentric, the winning word Shireen Abdolmohammadi spelled in the virtual Sacramento regional competition for the spelling bee.
Her win qualifies her for the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held in the summer.
The path to the biggest spelling competition hasn’t been easy for Abdolmohammadi, but she has been dedicated to spelling her way to to the top since she was introduced to it in the fourth grade.
About Shireen Abdolmohammadi
A 13-year old seventh-grader at Grant School, Abdolmohammadi loves beating challenges. That's one of the reasons she has competed in the spelling bee for the past few years.
At 10 years old, she fell in love with the process of learning to spell. From "putting the pieces together" and identifying root words, she said spelling words is like putting puzzles together. It’s exhilarating.
She doesn't always know how to spell the words she's given, she said, but she finds ways to figure them out. When she is given a word she can't spell while competing, she takes the word apart, identifies the prefix, suffix, word meaning and definition, and language of origin, she said.
“There are usually hints in that,” she said.
Abdolmohammadi also said she enjoys playing soccer in her free time and the challenge of doing math.
On what it takes to become a spelling bee champ
It takes hours of study, Abdolmohammadi said.
To prepare, Abdolmohammadi spends four to five hours a night studying for the spelling bee. This is after she finishes her homework. On weekends, she’ll spend extra time studying since she doesn’t have to worry about turning in school work.
For this year's competition, Abdolmohammadi won her school's spelling bee and qualified for regionals. Before competing in the regional spelling bee she had to take a qualifying exam that was mostly vocabulary, she said. In the regional competition, she competed virtually in 25 rounds against 10 other kids, she said.
The national competition is three parts, she said. The first two parts are virtual this year because of COVID-19.
Abdolmohammadi will compete virtually in the national quarterfinals and semifinals in June, along with 200 other kids who qualified, said Renee Sumption, the spelling bee coordinator at Grant School. If she wins those rounds, she will travel to Florida in July as one of the 10 to 12 finalists to compete in the primetime finals, she said.
The Bee is expected to be broadcast through ESPN.
Scroll past the video for more.
How COVID-19 affected competition
Abdolmohammadi has qualified for the regional spelling bee three times before this year and nationals once in the fifth grade, where she competed in Washington D.C. But this year’s competition is different, she said. COVID-19 has changed the way the Bee is held.
“They can’t have too many kids in one space,” she said.
The regional spelling bee was done virtually, Abdolmohammadi said. There were only 10 kids who she competed against, she said. That is a hard drop from the 50 to 60 kids she would compete against in regionals in previous years.
And last year, the spelling bee had to be canceled for the first time since 1945 due to the pandemic.
Inspiring future contestants
Abdolmohammadi has inspired her 9-year old sister, Nasheen Abdolmohammadi, to compete in the spelling bee, Nasheen said. Nasheen loves to play soccer and read comic books. Since her sister began competing in the spelling bee, Nasheen has been stepping in to help her sister study, she said, and developed an appreciation for the competition process of preparing.
And with a spelling bee champ for an older sister, she has the right support.
Shireen's best advice to winning the spelling bee: “Study and be confident about it. If they’re not then they won’t go anywhere,” she said.
Read more on North State schools:
- These Redding-area high schools saw a sharp rise in failing grades amid COVID-19
- How Shasta County could soon bridge a gap between its teenagers and older adults
- How Shasta County parents can help their kids focus while distance learning
- This international student exchange program is coming back to Redding
Nada Atieh is a Report For America corps member and education reporter focusing on childhood trauma and the achievement gap for the Redding Record Searchlight. Follow her on Twitter at @nadatieh_RS. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today! And if you are able, please consider a tax-deductible gift toward her work.