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Spelling Still Counts: Corbett Prep Student Aces Altiplano, Heads to National Spelling Bee

Riju Datta celebrates his spelling bee win with teachers Kim Rostick and Michael Vokoun.

Riju Datta celebrates his spelling bee win with teachers Kim Rostick and Michael Vokoun.

A Corbett Prep sixth grader will compete in Washington, D.C., in May.

March 8, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – After acing “mootable,” “fantoccini” and “keest,” it all came down to “altiplano” for sixth grader Riju Datta.

Correctly spelling the word — which means “high plain” or “plateau” — won him the Tampa Bay Area Regional Spelling Bee and qualifies him to compete in the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Riju, a student at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS, survived 15 rounds of competition with 24 spellers at the regional bee, held on March 8 at St. Petersburg College.

A seasoned competitor, Riju has advanced from Corbett Prep’s school spelling bee to the regional competition four times. He has placed in the top 5 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 said he’s excited and nervous about the national competition and is looking forward to seeing Washington, D.C., for the first time.

Riju is the first student from Corbett Prep 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 to inspire excitement among the students. 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, vocabulary and word origin.

“The kids can feel what it’s like to win, and be graceful when they 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.


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Founded in 1968, Corbett Preparatory School of IDS (formerly Independent Day School - Corbett Campus) is a fully accredited, nonsectarian private school located in Tampa’s Carrollwood neighborhood. The school serves over 500 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and offers the International Baccalaureate program of study for all students. Teachers are endorsed in gifted education through a master’s level grant with the University of South Florida College of Education. Corbett Prep balances a dynamic, nurturing and safe learning environment with high standards and high expectations to develop a positive approach to life and learning. Corbett Prep has become recognized as an exemplary school with over 7,000 visitors observing and learning from Corbett Prep teachers. For more information, visit www.corbettprep.com or contact the Admissions Office at (813) 961-3087.