AMBOY — It takes a special kind of person that possesses courage and mental fortitude to get up in front of mostly strangers and perform a variety of activities. Now imagine being 11 years old and doing it twice successfully.
Amboy Junior High sixth grader Parker Zimmerly did just that.
His journey started in his classroom. Each grade level sends their top 10 spellers to the second round where around 40 students take another written test. This year, a third round had to be instituted as a result of so many students correctly spelling words. After narrowing the list to 10, the remaining spellers went in front of the entire student body and faculty in a “live” spelling bee. Zimmerly was the winner and earned a chance to test his skill and knowledge at the Lee, Ogle, Whiteside Regional Spelling Bee held at the Wirtz Auditorium at Dixon High School on March 9 where he placed fourth competing against mostly seventh and eighth grade students.
Zimmerly first got “stung by the bee” after finding out from his parents, Joanie, a second grade teacher at AJH, and Cory, that older brother, Hunter had won his school spelling bee in the fifth grade.
“I thought that it was cool that my brother won and I wanted to win too,” he said.
So, after the list of 375 words were provided, with the help of mom and dad, Parker studied day and night.
“I would give him words on the way to school and back in the car,” said Joanie. “Every night Cory or I would give him random words from the list to spell and we would set aside the right ones from the incorrect ones and study how they were put together. It was a lot to expect from a young boy but he never complained or didn’t want to do it. I told him that I was extremely proud of him right at that moment regardless of the outcome.”
It’s human nature to get a little annoyed when we make a mistake but Parker took it in stride while studying.
“It wasn’t frustrating to spell a word wrong because often times it was the first experience that I had with the word,” he explained “It was fun to learn new words and I enjoyed the time with my mom.”
At the regional, nerves were high for both Parker and Cory.
“I was very nervous before the event but once I spelled my first word correctly, I settled down, relaxed, and felt more confident, he shared.
“I was much more anxious and edgy than Parker, to where I thought that I was going to throw up,” Cory said. “When he said that I got this dad, for him to be up on stage in the spotlight in front of a packed house, I saw confidence in my young man and I was proud.”
When it was Parker’s time to spell a word I asked him his process.
“I visualized it in my head and I didn’t write it down on the card that they gave us like many of the other kids did,” he said. “All of the hard work paid off. It was thrilling to continue to advance against the older kids, and I was so happy that I didn’t go out on my first word.”
As you can imagine, Parker had the full support of his teachers and classmates. One of his biggest fans was AJH Principal Andrew Full who was in attendance at the regional and relayed information as it happened.
“Mr. Full would text Miss Vicks throughout the day and she would go on the intercom that went throughout the entire school to announce that Parker advanced to the next round,” said Joanie. “From my classroom, I could hear screaming and cheering. It was a special moment.”
Principal Full shared his sentiments.
“I was extremely proud of Parker and how well he represented AJH,” he said. “He did a phenomenal job, especially for being just a sixth grader. He is a great student.”
Now that things have settled down and getting back to normal, Parker can get back into a routine.
“I will probably take a little break from studying words and go out and play a little more,” he said. “The entire experience was really, really cool and I hope to go back to the regional both in seventh and eighth grade.”
In case you were wondering what word eliminated Parker, it was “interred.” It took 13 rounds to crown a champion. Alexander Ottens an eighth grader of Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico Middle School won on the word “superlative.” He now qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins May 28 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor Maryland.