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Abuzz About Spelling

Cheryl Ursin
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Zachary Teoh

Kindergartner Zachary Teoh – the youngest spelling-bee champ in River Oaks Elementary School’s history – recently competed in the regional spelling bee, held by Houston Community College. He competed against 54 other district champions from 22 Texas counties. 

Zachary Teoh, the young spelling-bee champ we recently profiled, began his spelling-bee career only in late January, when the kindergartener became the youngest spelling-bee champ River Oaks Elementary School has ever had.

A month later, in February, he competed in the Houston Independent School District spelling bee, competing against about 60 other school champs from HISD elementary and middle schools. He came in second on his day of competition.

And in March, he advanced to the regional spelling bee, held by Houston Community College, competing against 54 other district champions from 22 different Texas counties. Most of his competitors were older than him, up to 14 years old and in the eighth grade.

Zachary, who had to pull the microphone down to his height, made it to the seventh of the regional bee’s eight rounds, correctly spelling words including “reminiscent,” “ebullience,” and “subluxated.” 

In the seventh round, as one of 15 remaining spellers, he misspelled “totipalmate” by a single letter.  (“Totipalmate,” incidentally, describes the feet of some water birds who have four webbed toes.)

As his mom, Joanne Yeap, says, spelling bees are “not just about ‘spelling.’” They are, she says, about “learning the universe through words.” 

Zachary is fired up to compete again next year.

Editor's note: Read Stellar Speller: Six-year-old spelling-bee champ by Cheryl Ursin (April 2023) for more on Zachary and his spelling-bee journey.

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