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McMillan Student Wins District Spelling Bee, Heads to Region

Apr 07, 2016 03:11PM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Murray - On Feb. 8, Murray School District crowned McMillan fifth-grader Jakob Mismash as champion, beating out 33 other students representing its elementary and junior high schools, including his older brother, Abram.

“I like to win contests a lot, and I know what it takes to do well in them,” Jakob said. “There has been a lot of pressure for me to stay McMillan’s champion, so I’ve studied words since last summer.”

As the district spelling champion, he received a first-place trophy and $100. For the school title, he received a medal.

Last year, Jakob edged his brother for the school title and then competed in the Salt Lake region with more than 100 other students. 

He was slated to return to that competition March 19 at the Viridan Center. The winner, which is his goal, then goes to the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 25–26 to compete near Washington, D.C., in National Harbor, Maryland, with other champions from across the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Department of Defense Schools in Europe as well as from the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

According to the website, the Scripps spelling bees are designed to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage. Scripps provides local spelling bees with materials, including their spelling lists and ones from Merriam-Webster.

To prepare for the competition, Jakob has been studying words of different origins and their meanings in addition to various spelling lists. Currently, he has a list of 1,200 Slavic words he is learning.

“He really is working hard to understand the words and use them in sentences as well as how they are spelled,” his teacher, Ann Saltzman, said. “He uses dictionary.com to learn different pronunciations so he’s prepared for how judges may say the word.”

Saltzman gives Jakob weekly spelling words that he compiled at the beginning of the school year to learn.

“He’s always studying, in the car on the way to the grocery store or the way to a soccer, when we go on trips, whenever he has free time,” his mother, Jodi Mishmash, said. “He can spell 450 words in a half hour that are on his list.”

Jakob said he fell in love with the idea of a spelling bee in first grade.

“They gave us words up to fifth grade before I missed and finished second,” he said.

Then, Jakob won his third-grade bee and McMillan’s school bee last year and this year.

“I won on xenophobic,” he said.

His mother also credits his love of reading to his success in spelling.

“All my kids are good spellers, but Jakob is the best and works the hardest,” Mishmash said. “He has been a great reader since first grade, so that has helped his spelling. We try to give him common language hints when he is learning how to spell the words. If we know people who are native speakers, we ask them to practice with him, so he can learn the pronunciation.” 

Jakob said that he has been involved in school activities — science fair, Creative Pursuits, debate — as well as Boy Scouts and soccer, but that hasn’t limited his time for studying.

“It’s fun and when I see a word on paper or hear it on TV, I realize I know it and know how to spell it. I always have a spelling list and want to learn it. It’s a highlight to go over the lists and realize I’ve learned them,” he said.  

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