A seventh grader from LISA Academy in Little Rock is the sole contestant from Arkansas in the National Spelling Bee taking place this week. Chythanya Murali is competing in the nation's most prominent spelling stage, covered by ESPN. Murali's coach and LISA Academy's High School assistant principal Judith Knieling says Murali's natural curiosity enables her to succeed.
"I think she just likes to learn. It doesn't matter if she's competing or not. She's just the type of student that wants to learn, and wants to know more, and she'll put in the time and effort to do so," says Knieling.
Knieling says learning how to spell is more than just rote memorization, "I know the spelling bee is a really good way to boost your vocabulary. Because when students come across a word they don't know we look up the origin of the word, we look up the meaning of the word, and we figure out how it can be used in a sentence. So, it's a really good way of boosting vocabulary.
The national bee is for students in 8th grade or below and features 281 spellers of which 65 are twelve years old. Contestants come from all fifty states as well as U.S. protectorates, territories, and military installations around the globe.
Murali is also fluent in Malayalam, a language spoken mainly in the southern Indian state of Kerala. She says her favorite subject is world history and she hopes to be a cardiologist.