Henley Middle School sixth-grader Layla Bouber won the Albemarle County Public Schools Spelling Bee Monday, cementing her status as one of the area’s leading young women of letters.
The divisional bee featured the spelling champions from Albemarle’s 15 elementary schools and five middle schools. Bouber won Meriwether Lewis Elementary School’s spelling bee three times before winning Henley’s bee this year,
Contestants first had to pass a written test at the County Office Building before taking to the Lane Auditorium dais for the oral competition.
As the pronouncer for the 2018 spelling bee, Albemarle County Public Schools spokesman Phil Giaramita presented students with words ranging from the euphoric “yippee” to the mundane “procedure.”
Bouber’s final challenger was Taylor Florin, the Meriwether Lewis school champion. Bouber clinched her victory by correctly spelling “uvula” and “hexagonal” after Florin misspelled “supplicate.”
“I’m really proud of all my friends for making it this far, and I’m proud of my friends who competed at the school level, too,” said Bouber.
The county spelling bee was rescheduled from Feb. 5 after the county schools were closed that day due to inclement weather. Bouber said an extra week of studying enabled her to enter Monday’s competition with greater confidence.
“I was very nervous [on Feb. 4], but I felt instant relief when I heard that school was canceled, and the bee was postponed,” Bouber said. “I feel like it was very helpful for me.”
Bouber said she studies lists of spelling bee words from previous years and expands her vocabulary by reading in her free time. Her favorite word is also the longest one in the Oxford English Dictionary: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, "a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash."
Before the oral competition began, Albemarle Superintendent Pam Moran told the contestants that good spelling still matters in the age of autocorrect.
“If your [mobile] device isn’t working, where do you have to go to find your words? You have to go to your brains,” Moran said.
Moran shared memories from competing in the 1965 South Carolina state spelling bee, which was won by future Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
“In the second round, I missed a word— and I never have misspelled that word again,” Moran said. “It became a word that was burned into my brain.”
Moran’s said her mother won her Oklahoma county’s spelling bee as a child in the 1930s.
“Spelling is something that has been important for a very long time,” Moran said. “You all have shown that you understand what you read, and that you are able to communicate with people and explain what you mean with your writing.”
The top eight finishers from the county spelling bee will advance to the Central Virginia regional bee, held March 3 at Albemarle High School. There, students will compete for a spot at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.