Montgomery UMS student advances to National Spelling Bee

Polypeptide. Filasse. Epilithic. Muishond. Would you be able to spell these words?

Well, Montgomery Upper Middle School eighth grader Angela Wang certainly can, and did. These are only a few of the difficult words that she spelled to advance to the Scripps 87th Annual National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 30 and May 31.

Out of the 16 million students who participated in statewide spelling bees all over the country, Wang was one of 278 students who competed in the National Spelling Bee.

Essentially, the National Spelling Bee is an international spelling bee since there were children from all over the world who competed. There were 278 children ages 6-15, from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Italy, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

While in Washington, D.C., Wang became famous at the Spelling Bee because of her appearance on YouTube that went viral explaining the Scripps BeeKeeper book that is given to each of the contestants at the National Spelling Bee.

“You know when you go out in Disney World with a book and you get the characters’ signatures?” Wang said. “It’s basically like that. In the BeeKeeper book, we have profile pages, and we’d go around signing each other’s books.”

How did all of this begin for Wang? Mainly ambition and self-motivation on her part, but in large, because of Montgomery’s PTO.

“The Montgomery district hadn’t been involved in the spelling bee for one or two years, and then the PTO asked the Montgomery Township school district if they could change that and revive the interest in the spelling bee, so finally they started it back up,” Wang said. “And since it’s the last year for an eighth grader to participate, I decided to take a shot, and I got all the way here.”

It all started with a local spelling bee that was held at Montgomery’s Upper Middle School earlier this year, where Wang topped around 40 students from Montgomery to advance to the regional competition.

The regional competition – Tri-County Spelling Bee at Middlesex County College – was held in Edison and drew about 40 students from different schools located in Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex counties. These students came from all aspects of schooling – public, private, and even home schools – and grades.

With a lot of vigorous competition and many students who have been preparing for these spelling bees for several years, Wang had her hands full with the National Spelling Bee.

However, with the help of a study list provided by the Tri-County Spelling Bee and Wang’s love of reading – her favorite books are The Messenger by Markus Zusak and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – she was able to pull through and place 51st.

“Because I love reading books, I have an expanding vocabulary,
she said. “Usually I like books of the fiction genre, but I am also starting to read all of the classics. When preparing for the nationals, I also read tidbits from the dictionary.”

Before this year, Wang only competed on local-level spelling bees when she was in fifth and sixth grade.

“In fifth grade, I was easily crushed by everyone else,” she said. “But, in sixth grade, I got second place in my school.”

For the National Spelling Bee, Wang had only around three months to prepare, unlike many participants and returning participants who prepare for the event for much longer, sometimes even several years. There were two competitors returning for their fifth years.

Most kids who compete also usually get help from their parents to study, but Wang didn’t have that luxury.

“My parents emigrated from China, so they know English well, but it’s hard for them to pronounce some of the words we’re expected to study,” she said. “So, I compiled a list to study. I would find a sheet of paper and scribble any interesting words I would find, and then look at the list.”

The list Wang used greatly helped her and contained words that she thought might pop up sometime during the Spelling Bee, many of which did.

She also really enjoyed the experience because of the diverse group of people she met while she was there.

“I thought it was great because there were people from all over the country, so I met kids from Michigan and Minnesota, and I also learned so much,” she said. “I also befriended the girls from China and Japan, and met the kid from Jamaica.”
Since Wang genuinely enjoys writing stories and poems, she’s hoping the summer will present more opportunities for her to write and explore the fields of study that she enjoys the most.

She’s also looking forward to the big transition from middle school to high school, since she’s going to be a freshman at Montgomery High School next year.

“I really enjoy school overall. It’s really fun, even though most kids don’t really like it,” she said. “I’m excited and nervous about high school because it feels like high school is the transition stage from a kid to an adult, so it’s when you find yourself.”