Olathe girl favorite to take national spelling bee title - KCTV5 News


Olathe wordsmith favorite to take national spelling bee title

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Each year, a couple hundred of the country's youngest wordsmiths head to Washington D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship. One of them is an Olathe student.

Vanya Shivashankar's sister won it all a few years ago, now the 11-year-old is a favorite to take the competition.

She tied for 10th place in the national spelling bee last year, but she is hoping all her years of experience and hard work will take her to the top this year.

For the sixth grader, studying doesn't stop when her history homework is through.

Vanya studies words, preparing for the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship.

"They provide a list for you to study, and so I study those. We also study the root words and how the words are made, like the language of origins and the etymological patterns, so we can learn how to make other words using a rule," Vanya said.

The time she puts in doesn't pull her away from other activities. She plays the piano and tuba and enjoys singing and dancing in plays.

Spelling is her favorite activity though. She entered her first spelling bee as a 5-year-old.

"It is kind of fun to learn how the words were made," she said.

When she's not on national TV, she's just a normal child who goes to school at California Trails Middle School. She is intelligent and an extremely hard worker.

"She jokes around with her friends in class. She enjoys school, but at the same time, she is just a little girl," Vanya's gifted education teacher, Michele Brown, said.

Like the other 281 spelling bee competitors this year, Vanya is changing the way she studies because of a new rule. They have to pass a vocabulary test too.

"I have to study a little differently because I have to focus more on the definitions. But when it wasn't vocabulary, I studied the definitions because I studied the root words," Vanya said.

For Vanya, it is not about winning, it is about learning, competing and achieving.

"My whole goal is just to do my best this year. I mean, it would be awesome to win, but I still have two more years to compete," Vanya said.

One could say spelling runs in Vanya's family. Her older sister Kavya was the national champion in 2009. They even share the same mannerism of writing out the word on their palm. Their father coaches them.

The family left for Washington D.C. last week for the Memorial Day contest airing on ESPN.

Vanya correctly spelled the word bilboquet on Thursday, moving her onto the final round of the National Spelling Bee.

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