MANCHESTER – "Go with the flow." That’s the advice 11-year-old Edgar Diaz would give to students seeking to improve their spelling ability.
"Just spell it how it sounds," said the sixth-grade student at St. James School, who won the Knights of Columbus Statewide Catholic School Spelling Bee for three consecutive years.
"Sometimes the words sound tricky but they really aren’t," he said.
Students at St. James begin practicing in December to prepare for the competitions that are held each spring. They practice using their grade-level spelling words to develop the habit of saying the word, spelling the word and then repeating the word.
"This gives students the opportunity to become familiar with the spelling format used in the competition," said Carol Oleasz, who teaches seventh grade at the school.
"We begin using the Knights of Columbus Spelling Bee word list that is distributed to schools shortly after Christmas. This helps prepare students for regional competitions that are held across the state," she said.
Seven regional competitions were held in February. Grade-level winners from each of those competed in the statewide championship in April at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.
"It was an interesting and great experience," said Edgar, whose older siblings were Knights of Columbus State Spelling Bee champs in prior years.
His brother Gavin Diaz, an eighth-grade student at St. James; and his sister Tiffany Diaz, who goes to East Catholic High School, took home the top prize when they participated in the contest as sixth-grade students.
Edgar won this year’s competition by correctly spelling the words "fluoridation" and "nematode."
In the final round of the state competition, when only two contestants remain and one misspells a word, the other contestant must correctly spell the same word plus an additional word before being declared champion.
He admitted that, at the time, he wasn’t exactly sure what a nematode is, but he "went with the flow and spelled the word exactly as it sounds."
Mom Andrea Diaz said she thinks spelling ability is important for any subject, and appreciates St. James and Catholic schools in general for stressing spelling from a young age.
Her three kids’ plaques from the Knights of Columbus reflect the importance she places on it.
"In any type of work throughout life, you need good spelling for effective written communication, for tests, résumés and to be successful in life," she said.
Each year, the Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus sponsors the Catholic School Spelling Bee for students in grades four, five and six. This year, 58 of 99 Catholic Schools across Connecticut were represented in regional competitions.